Volunteer Maker Community Bands Together to Produce Critical PPE
calendar icon June 12th, 2020
Volunteer Maker Community Bands Together to Produce Critical PPE

One of the silver linings throughout this pandemic has been the way we’ve seen communities come together to support one another, and the #CommunityShield project is a perfect example of this.


The #CommunityShield project is a collaborative effort between home hobbyists with 3D printers, Kitchener-Waterloo makerspace kwartzlab and the newly transformed company The Canadian Shield to produce and deliver crucial personal protective equipment to those most in need.


First initiated in March, hobbyists across the country were called on to print a special head-band bracket that holds a clear plastic shield to protect the wearer from incoming droplets – the Community Shield. Over 500 3D printer owners answered the call, stepping up to form an instant, virtual community to coordinate and deliver the parts to kwartzlab. Combined, this community has over 650 printers and donated more than $20,000 in 3D printer filament to the cause out of their own pockets.


From there, The Canadian Shield provided material support in the form of equipment like laser cutters, clear PETG plastic rolls and button hole elastic. Finally, kwartzlab provided the volunteers and physical space to process, clean and disinfect parts, package and distribute the face shields to organizations who were in desperate need.


The shields have been produced at kwartzlab for the past three months. COVID-19 had entirely shut down kwartzlab to general member usage, but through the support of their landlords and membership, and the implementation of substantial health and safety procedures to prevent the spread of the virus, kwartzlab was re-configured to produce the #CommunityShield.


The results are incredible. The #CommunityShield project was able to meet the needs of people and organizations that needed as few as five shields and as many as 3,000. “In total, we have produced at least 22,000 shields and donated them completely for free”, explains Cam Turner, project lead for #CommunityShield. “Even the shipping was covered thanks to the support of PSHSA”.


Public Services Health & Safety Association supported the delivery of the final products to in-need users across Ontario by offering the #CommunityShield project its negotiated courier rates and covering the costs of shipping, which made the project’s limited budget stretch at least three times further. “It’s important for us all to support each other during this time. Grassroots community efforts like the #CommunityShield project are doing incredible work to help our healthcare organizations and workers. We were happy to play a small role in this deserving project,” says Glenn Cullen, CEO & COO at PSHSA.


Cam describes the reaction of recipients as “a tearful sigh of relief”. “The gratitude we get in thank you letters every day, or on phone calls when we inform people that help is ‘in the mail free of charge’ is almost tangible. It's been emotional for sure. We're just happy we can give back in times of crisis.”


Now that commercial suppliers like The Canadian Shield have caught up with demand, the project is winding down. Cam reflects on the past three months: “It’s hard to believe that a simple phone call back in March has turned into a movement that has harnessed over 500 volunteers and impacted over 20,000 people. This project was an opportunity for me to act in a time of crisis. I'm thankful to the entire team at The Canadian Shield for allowing me to lead this project for them. It's been a real honour and privilege to have something meaningful to do during this time. Life gives us many lessons, but among the biggest that have stuck with me are the words of Mr. Rogers: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ I'm glad I could be a helper for Ontario.”


This project demonstrates the impact a small group of people can have, and serves as yet another example of the important role volunteers play within their communities. To Cam, The Canadian Shield and kwartzlab teams, and the 500+ volunteers that were involved, thank you for volunteering your time to this worthy project and for the dedication and compassion you have brought to it every day – you are truly #HeroesatWork.


As we can all appreciate, it’s important to spread positivity and share good news stories during times of crisis. Focusing on the positive and celebrating successes, no matter how small, helps us come together (at a safe distance!) to navigate difficult times as a community. We know Ontario’s workers and organizations are out there doing amazing things. This is why we’re recognizing some of them as our weekly Hero at Work. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured, please contact aallan@pshsa.ca.

Recommended Reading