Lincolnshire-Riverwoods fire district trustee works to secure COVID-19 supplies

Curtis Perlman has dedicated himself in recent weeks to connecting first responders and medical personnel fighting coronavirus with masks, sanitizer and other protective supplies. And in the process, he has become a sought-after source for local fire and police chiefs.

Perlman is a trustee on the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District board and said his initial interest in acquiring supplies for his district quickly expanded.

"These people are risking their lives to keep us safe," Perlman said. "I have no experience doing this, I'm just a trustee who saw our firefighters and paramedics busting a hump for us and decided I needed to help."

Perlman, of Riverwoods, leased a pickup truck last month just for deliveries of supplies and sometimes food and has already put about 4,000 miles on it.

"This has been a seven-day-a-week, 12-hours-a-day thing," Perlman said.

Perlman owns The Property Tax Dept. LLC, a company that helps clients appeal assessments to lower their property taxes, and said his employees are basically running the company for now.

From his early successes connecting his department and others nearby with supplies, Perlman said word got out.

"I started getting calls from other chiefs saying, 'Hey, we heard you know where to get supplies,'" Perlman said.

Most supplies come from charities and businesses that are looking to donate them and need help with distribution. Perlman said he has worked closely with four local sanitizer-producing distilleries as well as traditional medical supply companies such as ADI Medical in Waukegan.

He said he has made most connections through word-of-mouth, but he's also spent hours scouring Facebook for people looking to donate or sell supplies.

"It's been like the Wild West," Perlman said of the online supply market. "I've found more fakes than real stuff, chasing leads that don't lead anywhere and watching prices skyrocket."

Perlman has found others on Facebook looking to help. Lawrence LaVine started a Facebook group called Buffalo Grove Helping Buffalo Grove where members try to connect neighbors with supplies and groceries during the pandemic. LaVine said Perlman has shared what he's learned.

"I keep saying to him, 'how did you get this item?' and he tells me," LaVine said.

As it happens, the two men were childhood friends who grew up a block apart in Buffalo Grove and had fallen out of touch before reconnecting over their efforts to help.

Perlman's work has earned him praise from officials across the suburbs including Riverwoods Police Chief Bruce Dayno, who sent Perlman a letter thanking him for securing hard-to-acquire masks and hand sanitizer. He has even ventured across state lines, helping secure masks for a Wisconsin police department.

Perlman said he is saddened that such a need for supplies exists but is glad to give back.

"Sometimes," he said, "I feel a little like Santa Claus."

Curtis Perlman stands next to his truck, loaded with food and supplies. Perlman, a Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District trustee, has put nearly 4,000 miles on the truck delivering equipment to first responders and medical personnel. Courtesy of Curtis Perlman
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