Dear Neighbors,

I am asking for your financial help in an effort to protect health-care providers, first responders, and critical infrastructure workers in our community. A group of concerned and dedicated community members, whom I refer to as the “Noble Army” of 3D printer owners and support volunteers, have undertaken to create, package, and distribute packets of full-face protective shields to people who urgently need them. As of end-of-day Friday, April 10, our Noble Army has provided, free of charge, 1,386 full-face protective COVID-19 face shields to people and organizations throughout Cook County.

Our recipients include hospitals such as Gottlieb, Rush Oak Park, MacNeal, Loyola, West Suburban, Advocate General, and Mercy Hospital ER, which is handling acute overflow from the megabed temporary hospital at McCormick Place. Erie Family Health clinics, with several locations in the Chicago area, are using 150 of our shields, as are many doctors’ private practices. We have outfitted the entire River Forest Police and Fire departments, and delivered to Jewel, Trader Joe’s, Sugar Beet, Pete’s Fresh Market, and Byline Bank. We are now distributing to food banks and social service agencies.

My wife Susan and I are/were both business owners, and we have transformed this Noble Army organization into what is, in essence, a crowd-supplied factory, professionally managed, which now turns out approximately 200 shields per day. We have developed best-practice procedures and tools that have enabled us to deliver this output rapidly. Thus far, every single formal order for face shields has been fulfilled in under 24 hours, including our largest order ever today of 125 for Loretto Hospital. Our ultimate goal is to create a packaged how-to guide to enable others to replicate our successful factory cell anywhere across the country (or around the world) where 3D printers exist.

The cost of the materials to produce each shield is about $1. All of our Noble Army volunteers are working without any compensation whatsoever, and most have generously donated time and supplies at their own expense. They deserve at the very least to be reimbursed for their personally incurred costs. As we continue to deliver shields to more organizations who urgently need them, we also need to purchase additional supplies, which are becoming scarce and more expensive.

We can continue this work if we get some financial support from the community. A $10 donation would provide a protective full face shield to 10 courageous individuals who are literally putting their lives at risk to serve us. These funds would hopefully provide a cushion for us to continue to operate, serving institutions and critical infrastructure businesses in the Chicago area for the foreseeable future.

I would prefer to have an independent fiscal agent handle donations, but my inquires to date with organizations like the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation have revealed that they are not equipped to handle models like ours. Therefore, at this point, I must be the focal point for processing and using any financial donations.

I have tools to track every donation and expense. I am willing to work with an appropriate independently-appointed accounting professional to protect the interests of the community and with that person ensure the funds provided by our friend and neighbor donors are being well spent. I promise to offer to reimburse every single member of our Noble Army for their expenses before accepting any personal reimbursement.

And finally, I pledge to donate any funds received in excess of our expenses to the Beyond Hunger food pantry which is also providing critical support to our community during this pandemic.

You can donate in any amount by emailing me at Covid19ShieldOP@gmail.com for instructions. If you cannot donate at this time, you can reach out to people or organizations you know who need the shields for their work and have them contact us at the same address.

Robert Parks is an Oak Park resident.

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