Nonprofits, RV factories find new purpose
Small nonprofits are also stepping up to meet the needs of patients and health-care providers. Take Sew Loved, a nonprofit in South Bend, Indiana, that teaches sewing and vocational skills to underserved women and at-risk teens. Its facility is temporarily closed because of the pandemic, but the nonprofit is working to produce thousands of washable face masks through its network of home-based sewers, some of whom it has trained. It’s making the masks from high-thread-count, poly-cotton blend sheets donated by hospitals. Sew Loved plans to donate them to health-care providers and first responders to distribute to patients in hospitals and elsewhere.
The nonprofit is also trying to address the shortage of N95 masks for medical professionals by making large quantities of reusable mask covers and/or reusable custom masks. It hopes to make the products, designed to be sterilized after each use, from material that many hospitals already have on hand and may be willing to donate.
Sew Loved already donated an initial batch of 500 mask covers and custom masks to Beacon Health System of South Bend, a network of four hospitals and a medical group. But Sew Loved also has ambitious plans to ramp up production by hiring workers to sew the items on industrial sewing machines housed in nearby RV factories, which have been hard hit by a drop in demand. The nonprofit plans to sell the finished products to cover its costs. But it must first raise enough money to get the venture off the ground.
“I’m trying to launch a multimillion-dollar business on my Amex card,” quips Vicki Miles, founder and executive director of Sew Loved, which last year landed a contract to embroider hats and beanies for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.