While masks are the most common facial protection against the coronavirus, medical personnel want and need more.

Specifically, there is a big demand for face shields — those clear plastic barriers attached to headbands that allow doctors and nurses to treat potentially infected patients without fear of droplets or more hitting their faces.

Dan Ouweleen, president of PacMin Inc. in Fullerton, is active in leadership of Rotary District 5320 (which includes Long Beach). Last week, Ouweleen put his passions together to start meeting the face shield need.

One of Ouweleen's suppliers for his aerospace models in China mentioned that he knew of a source for M95 medical masks, so Ouweleen went looking for someone who needed them. When he contacted St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, the answer was an emphatic yes. But by the time Ouweleen could get back in touch with his Chinese source, the masks were gone.

"I went back, explained, and asked what else they needed," Ouweleen said. "They said face shields, lots of face shields. Well, I knew our plant in Ontario could make the parts, so I reached out to my fellow Rotarians."

With the support of the Rotary District governor, Ouweleen went after two things — money for the supplies, and people for the assembly line. Clubs throughout the district responded quickly.

Ouweleen sketched out an assembly line setup that kept the government-mandated 6-foot distance between workers. The four-step assembly includes adding padding to the headband — and a Rotary logo.

"We figured if we could raise $20,000, we could make 25,000 shields," Ouweleen said. "We got that in the first few days… We'll supply St. Jude, then St. Joseph, then we'll go on from there."

Mollie Beck, president of the Long Beach Rotary Club, said Long Beach — the largest club in the district — got on board early. So far, members have donated $6,000 to pay for 3,000 face shield kits, and members are volunteering to help assemble the shields.

Beck said assembly sessions will take place in Long Beach, and the shields put together here will be distributed to Long Beach health care facilities. Fundraising continues, and donations can be made payable to Long Beach Rotary Charitable Foundation, 400 W. Oceangate, #470, Long Beach, CA 90802 (note “Face Shield Project” in the memo field) or by credit card by contacting RCLB Executive Director Madrid Zimmerman. For information, go to rotarylongbeach.org.

Ouleween now has connected with a medical supplier to provide kits to put the shields together. And there will be five assembly sites this weekend for three days of face shield assembly — 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

So many volunteers have signed up, there's now a waiting list. But Ouweleen said the process likely will continue for several weeks.

"The medical community is in dire need of any assistance they can get," Ouweleen wrote on the project website. "Please donate or sign up to volunteer to assemble the face shields."

For more information on the districtwide project, go to www.givsum.com/opportunities/rotary-project-shield.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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