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In a heartbeat, ParaDocs switched from event staffers to front-line warriors


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During normal times, ParaDocs Worldwide, a global community of doctors, nurses, first responders (paramedics and EMTs) and other medical personnel, work at private and public events (like Electric Zoo and Governors Ball — remember those?).

When large gatherings evaporated virtually overnight in March, the Brooklyn-based company quickly pivoted.

“First our team, including myself, joined FEMA as first responders,” said Alex Pollak, CEO and founder of ParaDocs. “We also donated over 50,000 much-needed masks from our own inventory directly to first responders.”

They also helped donate over $96,000 worth of meal replacements to front-line workers (as they continue to do). Most recently, they donated an astounding 350,000 masks to the Department of Homeless Services who were in desperate need.

Currently, ParaDocs serves as on-site COVID-19 compliance officers (alas, it’s a thing) for almost every major television network and fashion outlet, as well as for corporate clients as they return to the office.

Add to that, Pollak also has a gig serving on the NYC mayor’s events advisory board, helping to facilitate and advising on reopenings in approximately 32 states, and performing over 500,000 coronavirus tests across the country.

Of course, the transition wasn’t without fear and some road bumps. “I was scared for my team and loved ones as I got to witness firsthand the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus,” said Pollak. “We all tried to help in our own way.”

For Pollak, that meant doling out face masks, head warmers and food to emergency workers fighting on the front lines — “We all did what we could,” he added.

One such ParaDocs employee, Carolyn Billeci Riñon, 34, went above and beyond to heed this call.

Although her full-time job is in retail health as a nurse practitioner, she started with ParaDocs in 2013 as a side gig for fun. Alongside her husband Justin Riñon, who’s a registered nurse, she had many memorable experiences working events, traveling and meeting new people through their shared ParaDocs work family.

In recent months, ParaDocs has become an important focus for Billeci Riñon.

“Before ParaDocs, I never worked alongside my husband,” said Billeci Riñon, who shares two young children with her husband. “When we finally got to do so, we were able to see each other thriving in the same arena, and we were able to motivate each other in ways we never could before. We are a great team.”

Like many New Yorkers, when the virus arrived here, Billeci Riñon wanted to pitch in locally, which for this altruistic nurse meant helping around Staten Island, her home since she was a 1-year-old.

“When the pandemic broke out in March, it was a no-brainer throwing myself into it for my patients, my family and my community in Staten Island,” she said.

Pollak was able to obtain rapid testing kits, and Billeci Riñon knew right away that she wanted to help deploy testing around Staten Island. In addition, she distributed supplies like masks, sanitizers and face shields from Pollak to those in need.

Alex Pollak (center), founder and CEO of ParaDocs.
Alex Pollak (center), founder and CEO of ParaDocs.
ParaDocs Worldwide

“I wanted to help people who wanted to work, so that they could work safely,” she explained. “So many small businesses, large corporations, major cities and production of major programs have been affected and need to have access to supplies and testing.”

This isn’t the first time Billeci Riñon has encountered local hardships.

“This pandemic is in some ways reminiscent of the impacts that Hurricane Sandy [in 2012] had on our community in Staten Island,” she said. “The banding of people together and people offering help to their neighbors is remarkable.”

Billeci Riñon is also uplifted and inspired by her community.

“Always look for the good when you feel hopeless, there are always more people doing good than bad,” she said. “I see many families spending a lot more time together and finding ways to connect with their loved ones, while safely trying to keep some normalcy for their children. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

Carolyn Billeci Rinon and her husband
Carolyn Billeci Rinon and her husband.
Courtesy of Carolyn Billeci Rino

Despite this husband-and-wife team’s selfless work, it’s been a personally trying year. During the pandemic, the couple’s 3-year-old son, Reed, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, Morquio A syndrome, which causes skeletal deformities.

“Many surgeries and procedures were canceled due to safety concerns and risks, and much of the workup and care Reed needed was not easily accessible,” said Billeci Riñon.

“My mother always says ask the busiest person that you know to help you with something and they will get it done. This is no different, and we had to jump through hoops and hit many roadblocks due to COVID-19 and everything coming to a halt, while the implications were very serious if he did not receive the life-saving enzyme replacement therapy that he needs for this disorder, once weekly for his lifetime, among many other needs.”

When the dark days of the pandemic are behind us, the family hopes to switch gears to fund-raise for their son’s syndrome.

More than ever, Billeci Riñon feels that helping others is what she was born to do.

“There’s no better time than a pandemic and being a medical professional to offer your help, support, supplies, home and services to those in need,” she said. “Making sure that the at-risk populations have groceries and sanitizer, for example. Offering to help a neighbor, or asking someone with small kids if they need anything from the store while you are there. Small things promote the biggest change, and make people feel like they are not on their own,” she said.

It’s in Billeci Riñon’s nature to care for people and to nurture.

“I always ask every patient I see how their families are doing,” she said. “I genuinely care, and you will never know what someone is dealing with unless you ask or offer support. Maybe you are the only person who has asked them that in months. That’s what I love most about New York, is that people always ask in return because they want to, not because they have to.”

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