Mastercraft donates masks to Blount Memorial Hospital

Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 3:27 PM EDT
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Blount Memorial Hospital continues to receive an outpouring of support from members of the community and local businesses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest of which comes from Vonore-based MasterCraft.

Having previously donated some of its existing supply of N95 masks to Blount Memorial earlier this month, MasterCraft representatives approached hospital administrators with a plan to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff, as the company has the ability to make and sew N95 face masks to the exact specifications health care providers require. Employees who are used to sewing upholstery for watercraft now are turning out 120 newly made N95 masks each day, nearly 300 of which have been donated to Blount Memorial.

“With the correct files, the cutting process is the same, and is the job that we can do most efficiently,” said MasterCraft’s Upholstery Department Supervisory Rosie Ellard, who first came up with the idea of the company shifting to making N95s for health care workers. “The sewing takes a little longer because the surgical masks require a strict finish. The hardest part of sewing is the material. It is a lot thinner than what normally is applied under the machine, and the pieces are much smaller. It takes learning how to control the pieces that are front of you,” she explained. “The decision-making process is easy, it needs to be done, so we just kept experimenting with different techniques, patterns and materials until we got it right,” she added.

“We have help from everywhere,” Ellard continued. “We have taught two upholstery operators how to sew. The customer service replacement team is helping to sew as well. The assembly supervisors have been helping with the non-sewing tasks. Engineering has helped out with nesting some files to cut on the cutter. Purchasing has worked to get materials donated by our suppliers. This really is a MasterCraft team effort,” she said.

“I am extremely proud of our employees for helping us redeploy our operations toward creating essential items for our communities, as well as those healthcare and first responders on the front lines," said Fred Brightbill, CEO and Chairman of MasterCraft Boat Holdings, Inc. "MasterCraft will continue to look for ways to leverage its resources to support local communities and participate in volunteer efforts."

And in the community’s all-hands-on-deck approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blount Memorial team has benefited greatly from MasterCraft’s help.

“We are extremely grateful for the MasterCraft team members who are helping to keep our employees safe by precisely sewing our N95 masks," Blount Memorial Hospital CEO Don Heinemann said. "The generosity found within business and industry to allow their employees to continue working to support the needs of our hospital and the communities it serves is something that is not found in every community, and we applaud MasterCraft for choosing to engage in activities that help so many during this global pandemic."

MasterCraft plans to keep producing masks as long as it takes to help Blount Memorial and other health care facilities in the area take on COVID-19.