DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With protective gear in short supply, some hospitals have resorted to asking for donations of gowns and masks to keep workers safe.

Meanwhile, neighborhood clinics are also stressed to secure supplies and they are a critical resource, freeing up capacity in overcrowded emergency rooms.

“Could be allergies, strep throat,” says Christy Chermak, Executive Director of Watermark Health. “We’re still treating all of those things and also educating people.”​

The nonprofit Watermark Urgent Care Clinics, with locations in Northeast Dallas and Plano, care for the underinsured and uninsured.

Watermark Urgent Care (CBS 11)

They treated some 12,000 patients just last year. And yet, none of that happens without personal protective gear.​

“As a healthcare administrator, if my people aren’t going to be safe, I’m going to close our doors,” warns Chermak.​

Faced with that drastic choice in recent weeks, Chermak first reached out to Watermark Community Church.

A member at the church had the creativity and the connections that the clinic desperately needed.​

“It was not actually on my radar,” says Seth Orsborn, at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. Orsborn is the Director of the school’s Innovation Gym, a so-called ​maker’s space.​

“Maker spaces have a unique set of tools like 3D printers and laser cutters and a lot of the face shields and PPEs now, are being made in spaces like ours.”​

The maker’s spaces are places where creative thinkers are given the tools to craft solutions. So that’s exactly what they did, using their 3D printer to make face shields and donate them to the clinic. ​

“Having masks, face shields like these allows us so stay open longer “[and] keep people out of the ERs, serve their emotional and spiritual needs, and then when we have an extra amount, we get to bless our volunteers as well.,” said Chermak.

Orsborn says the school has been able to donate protective gear to other local hospitals as well.​

“Our country has a great track record of when there’s something that seems overwhelming, all of the creative and entrepreneurial and innovative people come out and say ‘hey: what can we do to make an impact? a positive impact for this challenge’,” shares Orsborn. “I think this is a great opportunity for all of us to tap into those creative juices, to take our experiences and our knowledge and figure out how we can make a positive impact in our country right now. If we can keep one clinic open a little bit longer…we’ve done our part.”​

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