Many individuals and businesses have had to change course, quickly, to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis. Count among those Victoria Vetter, Executive Project Coordinator for The Arbor Company.

Before the pandemic, Vetter’s job was focused on special projects in Arbor’s home office in Atlanta, such as making arrangements for meetings of Arbor’s senior leadership team, and managing Arbor’s learning platform and training compliance. 

In the last three months, she has turned her attention to keeping residents and staff members in Arbor Company communities safe and healthy by securing hard-to-find personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and other gear. 

“I think I’ve acquired a nickname at Arbor as “the PPE czar,” she said with a smile. (Vetter also recently earned a Master’s of Science in Healthcare Administration, which also helped prepare her for the challenge.)

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The Arbor Company started ordering PPE from an established vendor in early March, but those orders were quickly placed on back order as PPE was reallocated to the national reserves. With considerable effort and research, Vetter was able to find other suppliers that met quality standards – but those suppliers only shipped very large quantities. That created the need for a way to sort and distribute the materials into smaller quantities needed for individual Arbor communities.

So Vetter consulted with Keystone Press, which has provided printing services for Arbor for the last 15 years. The family-owned and operated company, in Chamblee, Ga., was largely idled due to the pandemic, with business down about 90 percent. That meant Keystone had the capacity, the staff and the equipment to sort, repackage and ship the PPE materials to Arbor communities. The distribution operation has allowed Keystone’s co-owner to put his employees back to work. 

“Arbor coordinates the ordering of all of the PPE supplies,” said David Trapani, Keystone’s co-owner and sales manager. “We break down the quantities needed for each facility and use our driver and our vans to deliver to Arbor’s 12 locations in Georgia.” Materials for other Arbor Company communities outside of Georgia are shipped from Keystone via UPS or other shipping companies. See a video of the operation below. 

“The relationship between Arbor and Keystone warms my heart,” Vetter added. “This company has been there for Arbor for so long. David Trapani has educated me on packaging and distributing. They’ve been incredibly flexible.”

Vetter tackled emergency supply ordering for Arbor during Hurricane Dorian in 2019, which meant she had the relationships in place, as well as a corporate-wide ordering system to get things moving quickly. For the COVID-19 situation, however, she had to get up to speed fast on CDC guidelines and the ins and outs of PPE procurement – how to spot good quality and how to make sure a vendor could deliver on promised orders. 

“One week, my job was checking menus and choosing venues for executive meetings, and the next I was learning about manufacturers in China and how to spot counterfeit masks,” she said. “I learned more about how a gown is folded, packaged and loaded onto an airplane than I ever thought possible!”

As someone with experience leading memory care teams, Vetter also pitched in at Arbor Terrace Cascade and handled calls coming in through the WeCare Hotline set up to make sure that families have a way to quickly get answers for the questions or concerns during this challenging time. 

“Since the staff in our communities were so busy and focused on keeping residents safe, healthy and engaged, I was able to help by connecting with these families, providing information and reassurance, and quickly getting answers for them.”

Vetter is thankful for the experience gained from taking calls on the WeCare Hotline.

“Serving as the advocate and voice of the families was probably the most humbling experience of my professional career,” she said. “The families’ perspectives really brought home the awesome responsibility on our shoulders. I also saw what a great team we have. They are all heart.  That made me fight even harder to get the PPE we needed.” 

Learn more about Vetter and her work at The Arbor Company in this interview with Melissa Lee on Senior Living Live

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