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After Encouraging Chicagoans To Pick Up PPE Litter, Chicago Company iPromo Donates 100,000 Masks To Greater Chicago Food Depository

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One hundred thousand masks were delivered to the Greater Chicago Food Depository on Wednesday, thanks to a local business owner who saw a pandemic problem: used masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) thrown all over city streets.

CBS 2's Mugo Odigwe explains how Leo Friedman turned it all into an opportunity to make a difference.

This is about doubling the good. Pick up the litter of masks you see in your neighborhood, and new masks will be donated to those who need it.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is reaping the benefit of that good; 100,000 masks they can now use and give to those who need them most.

It's all thanks to Friedman, founder and CEO of Chicago-based iPromo.

"We're a promotional products branding company. Like, you know, your everyday swag," he said.

When the pandemic hit, the business took a tumble, and Friedman responded by pivoting. His company switched to selling PPE.

"We started selling gloves, and gowns, and thermometers," he said.

Then he noticed something unsettling: discarded masks littering the city.

"How many masks could I find per square block in the Chicago West Loop neighborhood? It was between five and six every time. And then, it only got worse over time," he said.

Friedman said there was no escaping it. He saw it every day he took his dog for a walk. So he decided to lead the change he wanted to see.

Through his company, he put a message out; for every mask, glove or other PPE picked up, his company would donate masks to a charity.

"It's been great. Sometimes, we will receive a picture of, like, 10 garbage bags full of litter that people have picked up," Friedman said.

The donation won't end with the Greater Chicago Food depository. The plan is to keep it going.

"The city can't handle all the mess on the ground; and for the sake of our children, the sake of our pets, the sake of just clean neighborhoods – just get the word out."

If you've seen used masks lying around, Friedman's message is pick them up. Take a picture of it, and post it to social media and tag iPromo.

You can also submit a picture to their website.

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