In the background, a voice clearly said: “I can make face shields”. It was Peter Brear, a member for less than a year and owner of Archer Plastics and Starboard Aeronautical, a company specializing in producing helicopter windshields. The response came during a Zoom meeting of the Semiahmoo Rotary Club when a guest, Joan Apel, President of the South Surrey Rotary Club, said that the Concord Retirement (Seniors Village) facility did not have any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) inventory. Brenda Floyd spoke up saying that her mother was in the Concord facility and she was worried about the situation in case the virus found a way into the population there.
Thus, began the project to supply emergency inventory of face shields for senior’s care facilities in South Surrey. Nations, provinces, health facilities and businesses were all attempting to secure PPE, and small care facilities could not compete. A survey of care facilities in the area found that four sites needed an emergency supply of face shields for staff in the event of a case of Covid-19.
Medical-grade PPE is not something that can be whipped up at the kitchen table. But utilizing a globally accepted face shield template Rotarian Peter Brear put his engineering skills and his industry contacts into full swing and came up with several prototypes for assessment by health staff at the care facilities. After several design “tweaks”, a choice was made and production began. Peter could produce the shields themselves, but the difficult parts were the bumper behind the shield and especially the headband, which had to be made by suppliers in Surrey on 3D printers.
At the same time, fiscal reality came home to Peter and the face shields. Initially believing the shields would not cost a great deal, it became apparent that the facilities wanted hundreds of re-usable units and the material cost was nearing $10 per shield.
A quick re-think of the project’s financial viability led to asking the facilities to pay one-third of the component costs; requesting financial support from the Semiahmoo Rotary Club and Peter offering to bear one-third of the cost. To reduce costs, once the labour-intensive assembly process began, Peter enlisted his wife and sons to help.
While this was underway, Semiahmoo Rotary was experiencing the same problems that most charities and businesses were facing. Fundraising ground to a halt during the extended “lockdown” period and revenues dried up. Semiahmoo Rotary had to postpone its annual golf tournament, the major source of club revenues. For the first time since the club was formed in 1989, cash-flow became a problem.   
Financial support from the Semiahmoo Rotary was secured on the understanding that the care facilities would contribute to the costs on an equal basis. The four care facilities settled on slightly less than 370 units total and they contributed a combined $1,000 to the costs, while Semiahmoo Rotary and Starboard Aeronautical split the remaining $1,500 indirect costs. Delivery of the face shields was completed on May 11, 2020.
What seemed to be a quick and simple solution to a community problem turned out to be much more complex, but that is life in a pandemic. Rotarians are known for tackling big challenges with persistence and intelligence to find solutions.
Rotarians, partnering with health care professionals and care facility staff, helped the facilities with emergency preparedness to combat Covid 19 and keep seniors safe.