DULUTH, Minn. -- While Ecolibrium3’s goal is to produce an amazing 360,000 face shields, Jodi Slick, chief executive officer for the Lincoln Park-based nonprofit, said Friday that number doesn’t seem so daunting when you break it down.

“We got our first 10,000 done, so we only have 350,000 to go,” Slick said, laughing. “And if you think 360,000 is scary, I did the math, and for that many face shields, it takes 1.44 million staples.”

Ecolibrium3 is enlisting a volunteer army to pull off the Herculean effort, part of a Pay It Forward personal protective equipment (PPE) project taking place at Heritage Center. The idea is to partner with local volunteer groups to assemble face shields to protect frontline workers in the coronavirus pandemic while at the same time raising money for area nonprofits.

Ecolibrium3 will be filling 60 four-hour volunteer sessions to assemble the 360,000 face shields, spacing out about 30 to 35 volunteers at Heritage Center for each session. Another 30,000 face masks will be provided to community members, with manufacturer Frost River leading the way on that project while producing the face shield materials.

Emily Dehmer assembles a face shield Friday. She attended the event with her in-laws to “do the little we can.” (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Emily Dehmer assembles a face shield Friday. She attended the event with her in-laws to “do the little we can.” (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Eric Siljendahl, U.S. Bank’s Lincoln Park branch manager, was part of about 15 to 18 U.S. Bank employees, as well as Duluth LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), who pitched in on Thursday to make face shields. On Friday night, supporters of Wildwoods volunteered.

“We were sort of a kickoff group for it, and I think we were partially guinea pigs as well, just trying to figure out how many we can average per hour,” Siljendahl said. “We did a couple time trials, you could say. It is a crazy number (360,000), but the system works. Once you get your system going, it’s not too bad.”

The goal of each four-hour session is to produce 6,000 face shields, while $1,000 will be given to a nonprofit or charity for the effort.

All volunteers sign a health waiver as part of the signing-in process. They are comfortably spaced and wear face masks. Hand sanitizer is available at all the tables.

Volunteers take the plastic shield, stick on a foam band to go over the person’s forehead and then staple in elastic on both sides to form a little headband.

A volunteer assembles a face shield Friday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
A volunteer assembles a face shield Friday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

“It’s not too difficult, maybe a minute per unit,” Siljendahl said.

Siljendahl was one of the faster ones. He cranked out 26 in one 15-minute span.

“It was going good,” he said. “We have a lot of our bank employees working from home now, so it was nice to see some of them we don’t get to see quite often. It was fun.”

They even played music for them.

“Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones,” Siljendahl said, laughing. “Right up my alley. I couldn’t complain.”

Slick hopes other businesses and organizations will follow suit. The goal is to reach 360,000.

While Ecolibrium3’s focus is on the Northland, they are willing to help wherever there is a need and discounts are available.

One of the first orders was with Renal Medicine in New Mexico to assist in their work with diabetes patients.

“Much like we have a discount for Minnesota, we absolutely want PPE to be in the hands of individuals who are in a hot spot like that,” Slick said. “We’re trying to make them as affordable as possible. We want to emphasize getting these shields to frontline organizations, and getting face masks to vulnerable groups that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”

Volunteers assemble face shields Friday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Volunteers assemble face shields Friday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Helping out

Groups or individuals interested in volunteering can visit Ecolibrium3.org online.

To purchase face shields or face masks, visit payitforwardppe.com. Prices range from $1.50-$4.50, with a minimum order of 100.