Local businesspeople help provide needed face masks

As we adjust our routines and expectations in this “new normal,” some businesspeople and manufacturers have diverted their resources and attentions to meet the demand for protective masks.

In Kingston, Found My Animal CEO Bethany Obrecht has retooled her sewing machines from manufacturing woven designer rope leashes in order to promote animal adoption to providing masks to the community at a low cost. Over a period under four weeks, she’s made nearly 5000.

In Saugerties, Bob Siracusano of Sawyer Motors contacted dozens of wholesalers directly to amass 5000 N95 masks among members of the community, prioritizing Saugerties’ senior-living facilities. He intends to procure and donate thousands more.

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Residents pick up masks at Cantine Field in Saugerties on Saturday, April 25. (Photo by David Gordon)

‘A lot of people just don’t know where to get masks’

Siracusano said that the cars that lined up to collect the donated masks at Cantine Field on April 25 “came in like a freight train.” Volunteers in masks, nitrile gloves and plastic face shields directed two lanes of traffic. Each car was given four masks.

“I’m very happy at the way that they turned out. The weather was perfect, it was like a car-show day,” said Siracusano, whose annual Sawyer Motors Car Show brings thousands to the village of Saugerties each summer. “People are very much appreciative. This is why we did this. A lot of people just don’t know where to get the masks. If you go to a local drugstore, they really don’t have them.”

Siracusano orchestrates the annual toy giveaway at Saugerties’ annual Holiday in the Village celebration and spearheads the Sawyer Motors Automotive Foundation, which funded the mask purchase. About 100 masks were also donated to Diaz Ambulance and that four masks apiece were given to around 160 residents of two senior living facilities: The Mill on East Bridge Street and of Better Community Housing on Main Street.

Siracusano was in the process of donating masks to other senior living facilities in the town. Leftover masks will be available, he said, at the Sawyer Motors showroom at 166 Ulster Avenue while supplies last. While a date has not yet been set, Siracusano said that he is planning to buy a lot more and orchestrate another mask giveaway in the near future.

 

‘We just want to help’ 

Since 2007, Obrecht’s company has manufactured over 100,000 dog leashes made from brightly-colored marine-grade rope woven with waxed canvas, all featuring a brass tag that reads “FOUND,” a simple message that reflects the company’s mission to promote animal adoption. The company also designs collars, harnesses, beds, bowls and fashions for dogs, cats and even horses.

Obrecht was inspired to pivot her manufacturing, she said, by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for masks and by a heartfelt donation delivered to her Kingston factory. A woman that she’d never met called the same day that non-essential businesses were closed and asked whether Obrecht could begin making face masks. The next day, in a delivered package from the caller, Obrecht found a wealth of donated fabric and a photograph of the caller’s mother and son. Also included was an earnest letter comparing the need for masks to the call for nurses in World War II, a call that the donor’s mother had answered, and voicing the need for individuals to “come together.”

Obrecht named her initiative “The Lorraine Community Mask Project,” after the donor’s mother. At Adams stores and on their website, FoundMyAnimal masks are currently being sold for five dollars to cover manufacturing costs, along with free shipping. Many of the finished products, she said, have been donated to local healthcare workers. With just seven seamstresses. Obrecht’s company has sewn about 1000 masks per week. Now that the kinks have been worked out, she thinks they can manage 2500 a week.

“I thought to myself. ‘I can really help by making masks,’ ” said Obrecht. “We just wanted to help.”

Both charitable initiatives could use help from the community to further their anti-viral missions. “We love help, we desperately need more [materials],” said Obrecht. “I was able to get flannel, but we desperately need more sew-in feather weight fabric …. Also, if anyone with sewing experience wants to help, they can reach out, too.”

Individuals with fabric or skills to donate can contact Obrecht at found@foundmyanimal.com. To inquire about mask availability or donate to the Sawyer Motors Automotive fund toward more masks, Siracusano can be reached at 247-5027 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.