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How this California small-business owner came up with creative ways to help community during pandemic

Paying It forward;Small Business Owner Found Way To Give Back

 Mario Hernandez appears as your average small business owner. He runs a small, family-run tile-care business in the Coachella Valley of Southern California – and has been doing so for over 30 years.



But when he's not driving from one home to the next restoring counters and floors, he's been coming up with solutions to some of his community's most pressing issues, including this year's pandemic.


"There's so much going on in this world with politics (and) COVID," Hernandez says. "I choose to stay focused on my community."


During the 2007 financial crisis, Hernandez gathered together a group of local small business owners and nonprofits to support each other and share resources. He and a few other business owners offered free office space to businesses in their community who could no longer afford rent.



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A decade later, the group started by Hernandez, called Desert United, has a database of over 4,000 business people, and up until the pandemic held luncheons in Indian Wells, California, once a month.




"It's been our way to bring people together," Hernandez says.


When COVID-19 began to spread across the U.S., Hernandez read the news about the dire lack of personal protective equipment in hospitals and health centers. He leveraged his Desert United network, and set up donation boxes for gloves, masks and other gear at four Home Depots around Palm Desert. Every day for over three months, he picked up a carload of PPE donations and delivered them to area hospitals, medical clinics and assisted living centers.


Mario Hernandez, owner of Environment Protection Solutions

"Since I had all these resources, I wanted to really use that tool to help the community," he says. Hernandez also set up multiple blood drives.


By June, Hernandez wasn't done coming up with ideas on ways to help his community out.


A new company during the pandemic

As the pandemic continued to rage on, Hernandez had a new business idea. A friend he'd met through Desert United, Ginny Weissman, told him of a product she heard about that was safe, non-toxic and could disinfect surfaces from the virus for up to three months.


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For Hernandez, the idea hit close to home. Many of his close family members and friends were contracting the virus, including his son, sister and two of his granddaughters. All have since recovered.


Hernandez offered up his own money, and with Weissman, started Environment Protection Solutions, a company which disinfects and sanitizes indoor spaces, including of COVID-19. The product they use is based off of one developed by Dow Corning in 1969, and has since been updated, further researched and tested. They say it's safe for pets and children and is FDA approved.


Mario Hernandez runs two business: Mario's Tile Care and Environment Protection Solutions.

Hernandez's team has been hired to disinfect car-washes, restaurants, retail stores and assisted living centers around the Coachella Valley. They have also provided the service free of charge to area non-profits including Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coachella Valley and Hanson House, a residence for families of patients getting treated at nearby hospitals.


"We go out there like everyone else to take a risk [and] to try to help others," Hernandez says.


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Hernandez and Weissman believe their service will be relevant even after the pandemic wanes. They say it can be used to disinfect against other viruses and bacteria like the flu, salmonella, E-Coli, mold, and mildew.



Between the two businesses Hernandez now runs, Hernandez says he works 10 to 14 hours a day.


He says he doesn't mind. "I love serving the public and love what I do for a living," he says. "I'm grateful to be working and grateful to be healthy.”


Source:https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/usaandmain/2020/12/14/paying-forward-small-business-owner-helps-community-beat-covid-19/3890742001/

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