For nearly ten years, the Los Angeles Location of the Western Association of the Order of Malta has been assembling hundreds of hygiene kits — a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, socks, hand sanitizer, deodorant, and a disposable razor — for the homeless and extremely poor persons in the central city. Until very recently, the knights and dames have gathered at the Los Angeles Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels or at St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church and made quick work of assembly in a spirit of prayer and community that characterizes the Order of Malta. In this ministry we do not get to see the faces of our lords, the poor and sick, but we know that these personal hygiene items play an important role in restoring their dignity.

All that changed with the arrival of COVID-19. The need is greater than ever, but due to the Western Association and local governmental bans on gatherings of unrelated people, the assembly no longer could take place at a church with knights and dames working together in the same way.

Enter Mike Psomas, Tim Shannon and Dennis Diekmann, Knights of Malta in Los Angeles, who developed a plan for home assembly of hygiene kits. Under the direction of Ken Hurley, Hospitaller for the Western Association, and Dr. Dan Field, M.D., Medical Director for the Western Association, the “Assembly Protocol” enables members and volunteers in all Locations to procure and distribute the components of the hygiene kits, to deliver them to the homes of knights and dames for assembly, and to pick up the assembled kits for distribution to the homeless though our third-party partners in charity. Also included in the Assembly Protocol are simple instructions for families in shelter to follow to ensure that our asymptomatic members do not inadvertently pass on the coronavirus to the least fortunate.