Redwood Falls Rotary helps raise $30,000 for PPE and UV Sterilizer

Christopher Schmitz
Special to the Gazette

Like so many organizations earlier in 2020, the Redwood Falls Rotary had closed for a period in response to the COVID-19 crisis. As a civic organization, Rotarians join together for local and global causes through personal and group giving and action, often in tandem with their larger Rotary Foundation, whose website reminds its users why they exist: “Doing Good in the World.” The foundation often provides matching dollars to address the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.

When the Redwood Falls Rotary first began to meet again in digital and hybrid forums, they hosted a request from Samantha Loomis and her Willmar counterpart, Shirley Carter, both of the Carris Health Foundation, in August. Loomis is Redwood Falls’ local connection to the Carris Health Foundation and also a member of the Rotary. Together they asked for local participation in writing a grant proposal to help them make a significant purchase of PPE supplies.

The Willmar Carris Crew is pictured with the purchased UV sterilizer.

The Carris Health Foundation is a different entity from the hospital. The Carris Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Carris Health, the healthcare system owned by CentraCare which serves people throughout West Central and Southwest Minnesota since 2018. Carris Health is one of Minnesota’s largest health systems, and it owns both Rice Memorial Hospital of Willmar and the hospital in Redwood Falls. When it acquired both of those networks, it absorbed two philanthropic programs associated with them and they have combined into the Carris Health Foundation. The foundation supports those two hospitals and the clinics within the Carris network, according to Carter who is the Executive Director for the Carris Health Foundation.

In the age of digital meetings, the ability to gather the necessary votes from a group like Rotary, which holds a group discussion and vote for all service projects with gifts over $300, meant creating digital forms and surveys so the club could meet its requirements for a significant, new project. Loomis and Carter had requested $1,000, and there was a deadline in order to petition the Rotary Foundation for additional dollars for a multi-club project. By acting swiftly, local members were able to secure the grant by tallying its digital votes on Aug. 17.

The grant Carter and Loomis put together raised $30,000 for PPE. Redwood Falls, Willmar, and Minnetonka Rotary chapters each committed a thousand dollars to the program and the Rotary Foundation provided $8,000 additional dollars, provided that the Redwood Falls and Willmar clubs provided a number of service hours by making cloth masks. Added to that total is $19,000 from the Carris Health Foundation.

Carter said the funds will be utilized for two purposes. Some of the dollars will be used to purchase additional PPE supplies at hospitals and clinics in the Carris network, but the most significant investment was putting money towards the purchase of a UV sterilizer, which is a device that is placed into a hospital room after it has been cleaned by hospital staff. Using ultraviolet rays, the machine performs an additional deep cleaning that can kill any pathogens that are not picked up by regular disinfecting measures. It is used in “high touch” locations and is effective against more than just the coronavirus. This particular piece of equipment costs over $100,000 and the grant dollars raised will help purchase one for the emergency room at Willmar’s Rice Memorial Hospital.

Loomis points out that while the UV sterilizer will be located at Rice Memorial Hospital’s ER in Willmar, Redwood Falls has been sending any COVID-19 infected persons requiring in-patient care to Rice. Many of the facemasks that have been made and are still being made to fulfill the Rotary’s service obligation are available at hospitals and clinics. These masks are not intended for medical personnel but are meant for community members who enter Carris facilities (both hospitals and clinics,) in Redwood Falls, Willmar, Litchfield, and New London.

Watch for a story about the Rotary facemask making project in a future edition of the Gazette.

To learn more about the Redwood Falls Rotary or contact them to consider membership, visit