Many small businesses and nonprofits in Otter Tail County have been directly and adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early this spring, as businesses began to develop their preparedness plans, it became apparent that personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply or required large quantities to place an order. Marie Noplos, the marketing and membership director for Otter Tail Lakes Country Association (OTLCA), saw the disruption this caused for area businesses and organizations. OTLCA is a member-based, nonprofit organization focused on promoting the region and supporting their diverse members. “Businesses, churches and even many schools and municipalities couldn’t gain access to the critical PPE they needed,” stated Noplos.

In response to the shortage, OTLCA, in partnership with Otter Tail County and several area chambers of commerce formed a partnership to provide free or at-cost PPE for local businesses and nonprofits. “We were honored to partner with Otter Tail County and provide this much needed service,” said Noplos. “We fulfilled over 400 orders from diverse organizations that were having trouble getting the essential PPE that they needed to be able to reopen or operate safely.” 

Thousands of PPE supplies were distributed to local businesses and nonprofits, including:

• 434 gallons of hand sanitizer.

• 6,775 pairs of gloves.

• 31,855 face coverings and shields.

“We are so appreciative of the PPE we were able to get from the PPE store,” commented Abby Hightower, Solutions Behavioral Healthcare program supervisor. “The PPE we received allowed our clinics to remain open and provide critical and essential services to the people of our community. The PPE donations made it easier and less stressful on our staff who have been extremely dedicated to providing our services to the community during these times.”

In October, the PPE Store suspended operations as it became apparent businesses and organizations were able to access the necessary supplies independently. “It was evident that the private market caught up and businesses were able to access the supplies they needed. We are certainly willing to reopen the store should market conditions change, but for now, gloves, masks and other PPE are much more accessible,” said Noplos.

For more information and additional resources about Otter Tail County’s COVID-19 “Navigating the Road Ahead” programs, please contact Shannon Terry at sterry@co.ottertail.mn.us or 218-998-8058.

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