It was a plea for help from an organization whose employees are on the frontlines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doug Cropper, CEO of Genesis Health System, which operates hospitals in Iowa and Illinois reached out to John Deere on March 18 to see if the company had any protective eyewear, or personal protective equipment (PPE), it could donate.
Cropper explained that the hospital was running low on the protective eyewear that its doctors and nurses will need as the number of COVID-19 patients likely grows in coming days.
Rock Island County in Illinois and Scott County in Iowa, which are home to numerous Deere facilities, each recently had their first confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Wallas Wiggins, director, Deere Worldwide Indirect Material & Services, received Cropper’s request and reached out to Karl Kane, manager, Enterprise Facilities Engineering Services at John Deere, for help tracking down PPE.
Kane found a supply of eyewear that Deere was able to donate just one day later. Another Deere unit was later able to send additional pieces of eyewear, increasing the total, Wiggins said.
“Genesis has been humbled and is grateful for John Deere’s generous donation of safety glasses,” Cropper said in a statement to Deere. “These donations help us care for the health of our patients and community. This is a trying time for all of us, and the support we are receiving across our community makes a big difference.”
Wiggins noted that Deere’s first priority is to make sure it has enough pieces of protective eyewear for its own employees, but since the company had some it could spare, it was feasible to make the donation.
“Everybody knows the COVID-19 situation is very serious,” Wiggins said. “There is a lot of news about how short supplies are. Obviously, we have to protect our employees at Deere first and foremost, but if we have an ability to go beyond that and help our healthcare workers in the field fight this problem, it’s really important that we as an organization stand tall and support the community.”
Wiggins said being able to help healthcare workers right now is particularly meaningful for him because his daughter is an emergency room registered nurse in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area where it, too, has a growing number of patients test positive for COVID-19.
“I think about her and worry about her all the time,” Wiggins said, “so if I can help support our healthcare workers here, and leverage the Deere resources we have, I’m more than happy to do that.”
Kane noted that helping others is something that Deere and its employees are known for.
“Helping others runs deep in the John Deere culture (United Way, Day of Caring, John Deere foundation, etc.),” Kane said. “The local health professionals expressed a need and we responded.”
Wiggins thanked Kane, and his own Deere Indirect Materials & Services team who he noted are constantly watching the commercial and retail marketplace to secure items that Deere needs for its operations.
“The reason we were able to do this is because of the behind the scenes hard work of Deere Facilities and Deere Indirect Materials,” he said.
Wiggins also noted that as the pandemic continues and more people in Iowa and Illinois potentially become ill it may become more challenging for Deere to help.
“As time goes on and supplies become more critical, it may become difficult to decide can we take some and donate them,” he said. “We always accept the request and are very objective about our ability to help, and if we can’t fulfill a need, if there is some way we can partially fulfill a need, we will do that as well, to the extent that our inventory allows it.”