The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than its fair share of heartache and suffering, but a silver lining has emerged as people rise to help their communities.

Sky Yang, a 17-year-old junior from Dublin High School, is one such example. He launched a youth-based nonprofit called Break the Outbreak (BTO) to help essential food industry workers and others at risk get the personal protection equipment (PPE) they need to work safely.

“We are a team of high school students, and our goal is to ensure the safety of the community’s essential food workers, senior citizens and people at risk of getting the COVID-19 virus,” Sky said. “We make face shields and cough masks for restaurants, grocery stores and senior centers in the East Bay Area.”

Sky began his nonprofit with help from his friends, the nonprofit organization STEM Outside the Box and Dublin Vice Mayor Arun Goel. In the past two months, BTO has spread from Dublin to include chapters at high schools in Pleasanton, Livermore, San Ramon and Fremont. Members raise funds, make face shields and face masks, and compile care packages for donation to East Bay organizations. Their recipients have included Rigatoni’s Fresh Italian Grill, Chaat Café, The Banana Garden, St. Raymond’s Food Bank and the Dublin Farmer’s Market.

Aldo Montufar owns The Banana Garden in Dublin and said he was impressed the youth reached out and then followed through on their offer to help.

“They are caring, generous souls who are taking responsibility during the worst crisis we have ever experienced,” Montufar said. “This shows a clear future of winners. I am very impressed that they took it upon themselves to come in and show that people matter.”

Montufar shared that he had received two dozen face masks and three dozen face shields, all of good quality. He further noted the PPE has helped his restaurant and protected his workers.

Despite the ground covered by BTO since its inception, Sky noted he isn’t done and hopes to continue expanding. He recently added senior care packages to his donations list and wants to reach out to those who have been economically impacted.

“As of right now, we have donated over 200 face masks and 200 face shields,” he said. “We are trying to increase our influence. The San Ramon chapter is getting ready to donate 100 more each of masks and shields. With summer starting and school ending, everyone can put their full might and heart into production.”

Adithya Krishnaraj is a junior at Dougherty Valley High School and a member of San Ramon’s chapter of BTO. Once he heard about Sky’s outreach, he quickly joined the ranks.

“We heard about what Sky was doing, so me and my friend, Sriram Ambadi, thought we should try something in San Ramon,” Adithya said. “We got in contact with him, and he gave us some information … we have our first deliveries today of face masks and shields, and next week, we have 15 more deliveries.”

In an effort to help food industry workers keep their jobs, Adithya is focusing on local restaurants that don’t have the means or funding to obtain proper PPE.

For more information on Break the Outbreak, or to donate, visit https://breaktheoutbreak.org.