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Rotarians Respond to Covid

Dan Ouweleen (2nd from left) delivers the first face shields to St. Jude's Hospital in Fullerton.
Dan Ouweleen (2nd from left) delivers the first face shields to St. Jude's Hospital in Fullerton.

When Covid-19 first hit, Dan Ouweleen, a Past President of the Fullerton Rotary Club and District Governor in 2022-23, learned that the St Jude’s Fullerton hospital was in desperate need of PPE from one of their members. St Jude’s had just announced that all workers had to have masks and shields on when working. They estimated they could need up to 5,000 shields a day and were desperate for help from the community.

St. Jude’s had an approved medical source for the shield materials but not for the assembly. A Rotary light bulb went off for Dan. What if we could help procure the materials and have Rotarians assemble them? Dan contacted the medical shield supplier who was willing to provide the materials at his cost, as long as no one was profiting by it. At this point Dan felt he has a project his club would support.

Project Shield is Born

Serendipity kicked in as it just so happened the District Governor, Marc Aarons of 5320, was asking his team to come up with project ideas on how Rotary could help during this time. Hearing this, Dan proposed the Shield Project to the District Governor as a possible District wide project to slow COVID. After considering it and speaking with the other club presidents, it was voted on and decided to move forward with this as a District wide project.

The District wanted to make it possible for all clubs to participate and be part of making a difference and answer the call for help from hospitals and health care workers who need Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The project was able to kick off immediately as the District had $20,000 in DDF grant money they allocated to the project right away without waiting for more funding.

Club Involvement

The District asked Dan to proceed and to lead the project and put together a program which would allow individual clubs to donate funds to the project at $2 apiece, as unassembled shield kits that Rotarian and community volunteers would assemble. Each club would get to designate where their shield were donated to as long as they were designated for medical front line workers.

Shield Production Challenge

To accomplish the task Dan needed to perfect the assembly process and do time studies. Dan tasked his LEAN MFG associates at his company PacMin, to work on the best assembly techniques for the build process. It was necessary to make sure that Rotarians could produce shields quickly enough with volunteer labor to make the shields in enough time and set production standards. A pilot line was set up and time studies along with various assembly techniques were tested. Within a week, the team at PacMin came up with an assembly process, needed production equipment, and a complete calculation on how many an hour could be produced and an instruction manual on how to efficiently assemble the shields.

Volunteers and Fundraising

Within a week, Rotarians volunteered to be part of the project and clubs quickly approved funding the shields, committing enough to produce 25,000 shields. The reality set in that a lot of volunteers were needed to produce the shields. With many Rotarians at COVID risk however, we needed more volunteers than the clubs could supply. Again, serendipity was at our side as Dan was contacted by Rotarian Shawn Wehan, CEO of Givesum an online non-profit organization that assist clubs with finding volunteers and funding for projects like this.

Givsum rapidly put the project on their site and advertised the first weekend of assembly, calling for Rotarian and community volunteers and donations. Additionally, OC United in Fullerton also offered to provide volunteers for this effort as soon as they learned of the project.

Facilities Prepared for Assembly and Rotarian Leadership

In parallel to the fundraising, the District Governor and his PR team arranged for a total of five facilities in the District to be made available for shield assembly in the first weekend by volunteers. By the end of the project this facility list would be expanded to eight around the District. Each facility was managed completely by volunteer Rotarian leaders from all over the district who stepped up to coordinate and manage each facility.

Logistics Challenge

It was decided to kick off assembly the weekend of April 2nd and Dan’s team arranged for the vendor to deliver the shield components to his factory in Fullerton. From there his Rotary volunteer team put together bulk kits, supplies, and instructions to be distributed to each facility. Also CDC-recommended COVID safety supplies of gloves, masks, and proper sterilization supplies; as well as food for volunteers, and assembly instructions for each facility. Givesum was notified of the facility times and they put the word out to their network for volunteers to sign up for specific facilities and times. The volunteer response was tremendous.

Shield Project PR

As the project was catching attention locally, the District PR team swung into action to make sure there was good communications going out about the project to the community and press. The team arranged for considerable press coverage at a number of the assembly sites. The project got publicity from several news stations and newspapers as a result of their efforts.


That first weekend five facilities around District 5320 made 7,500 Shields. It was agreed the first 10,000 shield would be delivered to St. Jude’s in Fullerton as they were the first to ask for the help and made it possible for us to obtain the materials.

Over the next 4 weeks, the effort resulted in:

  • Volunteers participated: 787

  • Volunteer Hours: 3,919

  • Total Funds raised:$132,658

  • Face Shields Assembled: 67,000

  • Clubs participating from District 5320: 42 Total

  • Other Districts that Joined Project Face Shield: Utah, Arizona, California (Monterey, South San Francisco, and Los Angeles)


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