Things were going as planned for Dylan Casey in the middle of March as he interned for a construction company in Appleton and studied construction at Fox Valley Technical College.
The 2018 Portage High School graduate sat in an office, working on a routine project submission for The Boldt Company when a manager he had never spoken to before walked in. Would Casey help the company build temporary care centers for Wisconsin hospitals during a global pandemic?
“The next thing I knew, I was sent to Green Bay,” Casey said. “It all happened fast.”
He would spend the next three weeks as a key liaison between construction workers and vendors, acquiring supplies for trailers and tents that were needed for emergency room overflow due to COVID-19. From March 16 to April 6, the company constructed three drive-thru facilities and four tents for Aurora hospitals in Green Bay, Marinette, Oshkosh and Two Rivers.
“There were days I drove 500 miles back and forth between the locations,” Casey said. “I was driving all over the northeast side of Wisconsin.”
He would answer questions and take suggestions from Aurora staff as the Boldt crews constructed the temporary care centers. He called vendors to see how quickly they might provide the necessary materials and sometimes picked them up, such as the traffic cones that were needed one day in Green Bay.
“I’d get calls from the project manager, and then I would call Aurora and then the vendor, and it really was one call after another,” Casey said. “Usually I was the one initiating the calls.”
Tents that were built in the second and third weeks were about 50 feet long and 25 feet wide, Casey said. They each took about six days to complete, with the crews and Casey working through the weekends. They involved heating and electricity, HVAC ducts, lighting, dividing curtains and more.
“There was such a sense of urgency,” Casey said. “There were some people who were under a lot of stress because things needed to be done as soon as possible and so we needed to make people as comfortable as possible.
“You needed to match that same sense of urgency every morning because it was race against the clock — a race against the virus.”
On Facebook and throughout the pandemic, the Portage Community School District has recognized and thanked its alumni including Casey for their work in response to COVID-19.
“I’m just so proud of what our graduates have done during this time and we thought Dylan’s story was so impressive,” Portage Superintendent Margaret Rudolph said. “We really strive to recognize them for their contributions because they’re on the front lines for us.”
Boldt eventually let go of its interns due to the impact that COVID-19 had on operations, but the experience Casey gained during those three weeks as liaison should last a lifetime, he said. The 20-year-old studying construction management made a video of the temporary care center construction process for his classmates at Fox Valley Technical College that his instructor recently employed in his curriculum as Casey and his classmates studied from home.
“It was unreal — I’ll never forget it,” Casey said. “I didn’t think as an intern I would ever be doing something like that. Nobody saw this coming. I got so much experience from those three weeks and learned a lot about construction and how versatile it is and how you have to adapt to so many things every day.
“You also need patience. No matter how crazy things are getting, you need patience.”
Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.