ROCKFORD — There’s a new way to help those in need and the area’s first responders, and you don’t even have to leave your car to do it.


In fact, they don’t want you to.


The COVID-19 Donations Center, a joint effort of the Winnebago County Emergency Operations Center and the Salvation Army, opened Tuesday at 5460 E. State St., the former site of Circuit City.


The center will be accepting donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Only certain donations will be accepted. Residents are being instructed to bring only items that are listed and to bring them only during designated drop-off times.


Items being collected for the members of the general public who are in need: paper products (paper towels, napkins and paper plates), personal hygiene items (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razors, lotion and body wash), baby care items (diapers, baby wipes, baby blankets, baby bottles and formula), cleaning supplies, laundry supplies and handmade face masks.


Personal protective equipment sought for first responders and health care workers includes N95 masks (NIOSH approved), procedure masks (ASTM II or III), isolation gowns, exam gloves (nitrile or vinyl), eye protection (glasses or goggles), face shields, hand wipes, TYVEK suits, sanitizing wipes, sanitizing sprays, anti-microbial hand soap, hand sanitizer, biohazard bags, gallons of bleach, touch-free thermometers and shoe covers.


For safety purposes and efficiency, the center operates as a drive-thru.


Volunteers wearing masks and gloves will retrieve donations from vehicles as they arrive at the center.


The center had about 25 donors on its first day, said Jacob Heiser of the Salvation Army of Winnebago County.


"It went well. We got quite a bit of homemade masks donated, a lot of paper products and some PPE, gloves and masks," Heiser said. "Our first customer was a gentleman who went to several dollar stores and bought up all of their paper towels and wipes and brought them here."


PPE donations will be distributed to local first responders. Items donated for the general public will be distributed to local agencies and nonprofits serving families and individuals in need.


Community partners include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Electrical Contractors Association, Fitzgerald Equipment, Rockford Sharefest and First Free Rockford.


The donations center will remain open until further notice.


Corina Curry: ccurry@rrstar.com; @corinacurry