The Helpers: Tattoo artist donates supplies to combat COVID-19
Editor's note: This is part of a series, The Helpers, shining light on those in the South Jersey community who are sharing resources and stepping up to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The best way to forget your own problems is to help someone else solve theirs.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
HAMMONTON - The tattoo industry across the country has been devastated due to COVID-19 closures but Moerder Tattoos & Gallery is trying to make a difference for healthcare professionals.
When Hammonton shop owner and artist Sue Moerder heard the news that Gov. Phil Murphy closed nonessential businesses indefinitely, she donated her entire stock of gloves, masks and cleaning supplies to first responders, health centers and other organizations facing severe personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages.
"It's people's health, it's our community," Moerder said. "I was raised to believe that when something like this happens, this is what you do. You don't sit on your hands and do nothing. You do whatever you can."
Hammonton police took to Facebook to thank Moerder Tattoos for donating PPE gloves, and cleaning supplies, saying, “Your generosity in these difficult times is greatly appreciated. You have increased the health safety of our first responders to protect and serve the town of Hammonton.”
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Even being out of work and depleting her supplies, Moerder turned to her own finances to purchase more. Her drive to help has overshadowed her financial situation.
"I went a little crazy, my credit cards aren't really happy with me," Moerder joked. "Money is money, it's not that important right now. You don't ever weigh money against human life."
With many items being hard to come by for most people, Moerder realized she could still buy things from wholesale tattoo supply businesses.
"If you have access to something that people need, there's an obligation there," she said.
Moerder also has assembled a large amount of masks out of non-fiberglass High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter (HEPA) vacuum bags.
"I'm up to about 600 now and I have two more shipments of bags coming in," she said. "You wouldn't believe how many people need them. These people are on the front lines and they only have one mask to wear all week."
Cloth masks are nice but they are slow to make, notes Moerder, who cuts the HEPA bags up, folds them into an accordion and staples two rubber bands to either side.
Another item Moerder has access to purchasing and donating that most would not is Madacide-1, a hospital level cleaner that has no alcohol content and is commonly used in the tattoo industry.
The disinfectant has been registered on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency list of Novel Coronavirusas infection control solutions.
With the help of the Hammonton Fire Department, Moerder's donations have been distributed to the Hammonton Police Department, area nursing homes, retirement centers and several hospitals in the area.
To raise additional money for more supplies, Moerder came up with the idea to tattoo herself live on Facebook every Tuesday in the hopes of getting donations to ease the pressure on her own finances.
On her first Facebook "Tattoo Tuesday" video, Moerder inked "6'" on her shin to symbolize the six-foot social distancing measure used for COVID-19.
"I thought a lot about what I was going to tattoo on myself," she said. "It seemed to sum up a lot of what I'm feeling. Every time I see someone I love, instead of hugging them and being close, the fear blocks me and I back away and think of six feet. Social distancing sucks."
Moerder is encouraging other tattoo shops to do the same, donating gloves to officials and medical professionals who need them most while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information on helping Sue Moerder purchase supplies for healthcare professionals, visit her Facebook page at Facebook.com/SueMoerder.
Adam Monacelli is a regional photojournalist for The Daily Journal and Courier-Post. He has worked in the newspaper industry for over 25 years. If you have a neat video or photo idea, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism with a Daily Journal subscription.