Helping to shield Chicago from COVID-19
When Jacquelyn Moore saw the devastation COVID-19 was causing in Chicago’s African American community, she put her problem-solving hat on and got to work.
African Americans account for more than 50% of the COVID-19-related deaths in Chicago even though they makes up just 30% of the city’s population. Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) can help prevent COVID-19's spread – but there’s not enough of it to be found in Chicago’s African American and Latino neighborhoods, which are also reeling from pandemic-related unemployment on top of already high unemployment numbers.
As the founder of LevelUP IRL - the country’s first free, public-facing makerspace for teens - the Chicago Knights Robotics Team and the Chicago Southside Maker Faire, Moore put her network of Chicago’s teenage and other makers into motion and began making face shields using local 3D-printers and delivering them with the help of the volunteers. The Knights also rallied community volunteers to make cloth face masks for underserved populations.
Yet she soon realized the need outweighed capacity – there were only so many volunteers with 3D printers, sewing machines or materials, and only so many shields or masks they could each make.
Then Field Ready learned about Moore’s efforts. Along with partner COVID-19 Shields in Los Angeles, Field Ready has sent 1,000 face shields to the Knights for community distribution. The shields will be given to Chicago’s healthcare and frontline workers in underserved communities who otherwise can’t afford them – people employed in safety-net
hospitals, nursing homes and care centers, restaurants, transportation, construction and grocery stores.
Field Ready is also sponsoring the Knights’ efforts with Join In Chicago to make community-produced face masks for anyone who needs one. Field Ready will help supply materials and equipment for Moore’s network of home sewers, who are primarily members of impacted communities, to make the masks; the masks will then be offered for sale on a “You Buy One, We Give One” basis to companies and institutions. This helps the mask makers earn much-needed cash and still provides the neediest with face masks to protect themselves and others from the virus’ spread.
“It’s simple math,” Moore said. “If we can help keep people from getting sick, we can help keep them from straining the hospitals and nursing homes.”
Moore and a group of volunteers have been distributing the shields and masks at hubs in six Chicago neighborhoods that are among the hardest-hit by the virus – Auburn-Gresham, where Moore lives and where Chicago’s first COVID-19 death occurred - Bronzeville, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Roseland and South Shore. They will continue to distribute the PPE in those areas as long as the need remains.
Her approach is a great match for Field Ready’s, which has already donated and distributed tens of thousands of face shields and other PPE around the world in response to the pandemic, noted Executive DIrector Eric James, Ph.D.
“Our mission is providing on-the-ground solutions where they’re needed, and Jackie’s got a solution we can support and extend to help meet the communities’ urgent need,” he said.
Moore is accustomed to using grassroots efforts to get things done. Known as “The Robotics Lady,” Moore has been helping Chicago teens build their tech skills since 2002 and founded the Knights in response to a lack of STEM education in her neighborhood.
“I have a can-do, will-do attitude,” said Moore, who worked in fintech systems software for more than 25 years. “I’m very comfortable crossing the bridge before it’s built; you can’t let the lack of something get in your way. So we’re focusing our efforts to get shields and masks where people aren’t getting support, and the support we’re getting from Field Ready is going to help us expand our reach.”
Field Ready continues to donate shields to underserved communities across the country. If you or your organization can't afford shields, please make your request here. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.