Cumbrian Family Business owner answers urgent call for PPE from front line workers

John Parkinson, a theatre designer from Penrith who runs the Upfront Arts Venue with wife, Elaine has drawn on his business experience, contacts and family to bring together the supply of protective face shields for front line workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking about the cause he said, “I couldn’t stand back and do nothing. There is a desperate need to protect front line workers and we have to act fast. I do believe that this is what makes many family businesses different – we just get on and make a start if something needs doing.”

Dave Clarkson, Director of The Family Business Network said, “When we heard about John’s story, we wanted to help. As one of the worthy winners at our North West Family Business Awards last month, we admired the ingenuity and dedication that John and Elaine put into their business. They are clearly treating this cause in the same admirable way and we are here to offer our support”.

Since their not-for-profit mission began just two weeks ago, John Parkinson and Jon Stynes designs with a small voluntary team, have made, assembled, boxed and delivered over 8,000 of their protective face shields to hospitals, community ambulance services, care homes and care workers across the North West and North East.

The collaboration began when John spoke to friend and fellow business owner, Jon Stynes who was working on a new face visor design that could be produced at his fabrication facilities in Brampton. Together they investigated suitable materials and used their own funds to purchase the stock needed to begin production.

John said, “Our unique design makes these masks both recyclable and re-usable. They are made from two types of tough yet light, recyclable plastic which can be separated, and because we haven’t used elastic to keep them in place, the masks can be sterilised and re-used.

“We also came up with a child-friendly version featuring superhero designs that make them appear a little less frightening to children.

“This is very much a team effort. There are ten of us including myself and my wife, Elaine, Jon Stynes and his team at Jon Stynes Designs in Brampton. Penrith Mountain Rescue Cumbria are also helping to distribute for us.”

John added, “Our top priority was to get the masks out quickly to those in need. Having been involved with the new Cancer Care facility project at Cumberland Infirmary, I was able to reach out through my contacts to offer our support. The NHS have ordered thousands to supply all their hospitals in Cumbria. They are paying the cost price of £3 each for these, enabling us to keep helping others on the front line.

“Currently, we are supplying hospitals in Cumbria, four national children’s hospitals, NW and NE community ambulance services, BEEP doctors and many care homes and home care providers. Two hundred and fifty of our visors have been sent to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital this week”.

After production began on 8th April, John set up a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of their original material purchase and postage. The campaign quickly exceeded that target of £2,000 and has now surpassed £10,000 which they will use to keep their production going.

John said, “We are humbled by the kind support of our friends, community and those that wish to help the cause. As our project has developed, we’ve become aware of how huge the demand is and we now need the public and the media to help us to get our message out there and provide vulnerable front line workers with the PPE they require.”

“We would like our project to help others where possible, which is why we shared our designs for free online through international design forums. They are now being used to start production of the shields in New York.”

“We are prepared for increased demand, having purchased an additional laser cutter machine. We also have a team of volunteers on stand-by to help us fulfil the orders”.

If you are a front line worker and have a requirement for protective face shields, please email your request to info@up-front.com with your contact details and a short explanation of your cause, how many you require and where the shields will be going.

Although the shields are being provided for free, John and his team are asking for donations to enable them to keep production going.

Updates and photos of the face shields being delivered can be found on the Upfront Arts Venue Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/upfrontarts

If you would like to support this cause, you can make a donation via their crowdfunding page, https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-parkinson

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