Two local manufacturers and their employees are using their skills in new ways to help protect those on the front lines from the novel coronavirus. Sewers at Nivel Manufacturing, known for making golf cart seats and enclosures, and Wild Creek Distillery, producer of alcoholic beverages, have spent part of their time recently making surgical masks or hand sanitizer.
Gov. Brian Kemp asked Georgia businesses last week to help “provide, produce, distribute, or store critical health care items needed to fight the spread of COVID-19.”
These two Grady County businesses are stepping up to the plate.
At Nivel, a crew of about 20 sewers has donated one of their days off to make hundreds of surgical masks for doctors, nurses and all employees of Tift Regional Medical Center.
Chelsie Cosby, human resources specialist for Nivel, says the hospital in Tifton is getting overflow patients from hard hit Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, and she’s been told that every single Tift employee has to wear masks. “Even those employees with no patient contact are required to wear P.P.E. (personal protective equipment,” Cosby said. “We’ve got the talent and we’ve got the machines – we just needed the materials – elastic and fabric.”
She says soon after a hospital employee posted a request for supplies on social media, they were stocked and ready to go by Monday. Although the employees usually work four, 10-hour shifts per week and take Fridays off, they agreed to use Monday as their day off and got to work on the masks, which were needed urgently.
“I told everybody this morning in the meeting that we are blessed to come in and work our regular jobs and even blessed to be requested to help a local hospital,” Cosby said Monday. “It’s a true honor for us to be able to help even in this small way.”
Used to working with substantial leather fabrics for golf carts, the craftsmen and women took just a little bit of time Monday morning to learn how to handle the cotton fabric and elastic and sew the potentially life saving masks.
“If we get more materials and have employees who want to work on it, then we will make more,” Cosby said.
Lee Stewart at Wild Creek Distillery is fielding desperate calls and filling orders from all over the Southeast for hand sanitizer. Usually, Stewart uses his grain alcohol to make moonshine, whiskey and bourbon in North Grady County. These days, he’s using it to make hand sanitizer.
“I was in a position to be able to do it, and I was thankful to be able to do it. It breaks my heart. I had two different hospices call today, one in Macon and one in North Carolina, and they were completely out of hand sanitizer. What do you say? You don’t say no,” Stewart said Tuesday.
After getting a formula and guidelines from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and F.D.A., Stewart said he got into production.
Over the weekend, he delivered 50 gallons to the Grady County Emergency Management and Cairo Fire Department with another 50 gallons on order.
He says he’s run into issues procuring the necessary hydrogen peroxide, but has enough to fill orders at the moment. He’s also forced to use whatever containers he can find.
“I think the main thing right now is to save our health care folks and first responders. If they go out, we’re all in trouble,” Stewart said.