The phrase “it takes a village” rings poignantly true for many right now as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic. For Catholic Charities, that “village” includes a trio of local businesses that joined forces to provide critically important personal protective equipment (PPE) to the organization’s health care workers and others who directly interact with vulnerable individuals.

The three businesses – Open Works, Innovation Works, and We the Builders – typically offer very different services. Open Works is a manufacturing space for area “makers;” Innovation Works helps residents of Baltimore’s disinvested communities launch social enterprises to bolster sustainable local economies; and We the Builders organizes and assembles giant crowd-sourced sculptures from small pieces made on 3-D printers.

As the need for PPE became increasingly apparent, however, the three combined their expertise, pulling in other businesses and volunteers to crowd-source parts for the face protections, sanitize and assemble the pieces, and manage orders from and distribution to health-care providers and other front-line organizations.

Then, the groups handed off hundreds of face shields and masks to Catholic Charities, for use at St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Caritas House Assisted Living, St. Vincent’s Villa, and other programs.

“We are grateful for this partnership, where Baltimore businesses are responding in times of crisis and keeping our colleagues and residents protected,” said Bill McCarthy, Catholic Charities’ executive director.

Over a two-week span, the collaboration sold 6,500 face shields and 2,500 face masks through a website, Innovation Works President and Chief Innovation Officer Jay Nwachu said the work continues.

“There are so many people on the front lines – such as healthcare workers and first responders – we just want to ensure everyone is being safe during these trying times,” he said. “As long as we are in a pandemic we will continue to supply the community.”

This is part of an ongoing relationship between Catholic Charities and Innovation Works. Last summer, Catholic Charities was part of an Innovation Works program geared toward enhancing social impact and fiscal sustainability.