HAMLET — A Richmond County textile company is donating more than 15,000 masks to the school system to help keep students and staff safe when classes start back next month amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Ken Hartley, vice president of North Carolina Operations for Therafirm, announced Monday that his company would be donating 8,100 packs of masks — for a total of 16,200 — to Richmond County Schools.
“We’re thrilled we can help,” Hartley said. “That’s what we’re all about and what we wanted to do with the masks all along.”
Therafirm, owned by Knit-Rite Inc., converted its machines and switched production from compression legwear to develop the Don’t Touch Your Face! mask back in April during the personal protective equipment shortage.
The product was manufactured at the pant in Hamlet and one in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Like so many other businesses, Knit-Rite and Therafirm have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are fortunate that we are considered essential and felt the need to react to what was going on and help,” Hartley said. “We spent the early months mobilizing our business and workforce to make protective face masks for the general public in response to the health crisis.”
He said many employees were asked to adjust their schedules so the plant could run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We are so proud of our employees and their willingness to help with the production and launch of the mask,” Hartley said.
The company made the decision to donate a mask for every one sold.
Hartley said production of the masks has ceased because of a surplus.
Hartley said the company reached out to Superintendent Dr. Jeff Maples to inform him of the availability and “he immediately accepted our donation offer.”
“We have been monitoring how our communities have been impacted during this crisis and trying to help in whatever way we can,” Hartley said. “The project initially started as a way for us to help when the pandemic hit the U.S. — in providing general face masks. Service is a critical part of our mission, ‘We are here to serve’ and giving back to our communities part of our culture.
“We know that schools across America are trying to put together plans on how they can open safely. Supplying masks to the students and staff of our local district is just a small way we can help.”
According to Hartley, the masks will allow each student and staff member to have a cloth mask “to support the initiative and directive” to wear masks in public.
Last week, the Richmond County Board of Education voted to have elementary and self-contained Exceptional Children students return to the classroom, while those in middle school and high school will learn remotely — at least for the foreseeable future.
Everyone at the schools will be required to wear a mask.
Richmond County Schools did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Maples will pick up the masks from the plant Tuesday morning.
Hartley said the company has already donated more than 95,000 masks valued at nearly half a million dollars.
“As local and regional mask mandates are becoming more common and communities begin to open up, we are continuing to work closely with local organizations that are helping supply masks to the public,” he said.
Giving back to our community does not only apply to this mask project but it is at the very core of our mission and who we are as an organization,” Hartley added. “As we reached out to the various organizations in the communities, both in Hamlet and in Kansas City, we wanted to let those that are serving know how much we appreciate their efforts and if possible, we wanted to help them by providing masks.”
(NOTE: This story has been edited from its original version to correct information supplied by the source.)