Face Mask donation

Darian Browning, Agtegra Redfield Elevator and Energy Location Manager, center, delivers face masks to Spink County Ambulance.

A South Dakota agricultural cooperative is helping to make sure health care workers have the protective equipment they need to battle COVID-19.

Agtegra, based in Aberdeen, South Dakota, donated 2,500 N-95 face masks to communities throughout the company’s territory in one week. The masks are what cooperative workers use to protect themselves from dust particles when cleaning out grain bins.

The company asked staff at its locations in South Dakota and North Dakota to inventory their masks and decide what they would need to get through spring. Any that could be spared were donated.

“They all banded together some donated locally,” Agtegra director of safety Beth Locken said. “It’s never enough, but any little bit helps.”

The efforts started March 12 after news outlets began reporting on shortages of personal protective equipment at hospitals. Locken said Agtegra came up with 3,700 masks to donate.

In the first week, donations went to 25 communities including Aberdeen, Bowdle, Chamberlain, Faulkton, Huron, Mitchell and Redfield, South Dakota and to Oakes, North Dakota.

Agetra also sent protective eyewear and Tyvek suits, which their employees use when working around chemicals. Those went mostly to Beadle County, which has the second highest tallies of COVID-19 cases in the state.

In an effort to protect its own workers and customers, Agetra, like many other businesses, has closed its office doors to the public. They’re promoting on-farm deliveries for seed and chemical orders. Employees are working from home when they can, and they’re limiting physical content when taking deliveries.

Those delivering grain to Agtegra facilities are encouraged to stay in their trucks. They can use a cell phone to let staff know they’re on site, and many locations have an e-signature system in place.

“Everybody is chipping in,” Locken said. “It’s nice to see everyone checking up with each other.”

Janelle is editor of the Tri-State Neighbor, covering South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at jatyeo@tristateneighbor.com or follow on Twitter @JLNeighbor