Answering the call

Sewing department workers at Crest Marine, which is closed under the state’s stay-home order, on Tuesday are back in the plant making face masks for front-line workers and patients amid the coronavirus outbreak.

OWOSSO TWP. — Crest Marine is showing it cares about supporting the health care system during the coronavirus outbreak with a new initiative, #CrestCares.

Although the pontoon manufacturer is closed until April 14 in compliance with the state’s “stay home” order, several workers from the sewing department have volunteered to come back and make face mask covers, extending the life of the N-95 medical masks that are in short supply nationwide.

“We said, ‘We’re not open, so let’s give people who need to be in the face of this outbreak protection,’” Crest Marine President Patrick May said Thursday. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Crest seamstresses are making two types of masks — a “pocket mask” which N-95 medical masks are slid into — and a simpler mask cover, said Eric Walther, Crest senior vice president of engineering and manufacturing.

So many Crest employees have volunteered to pitch in, they are working on rotating schedules, since it has been deemed safe for only six workers to be in the plant at one time.

“Our workers are extremely happy to do this. It gives everybody a good feeling that they can help at this time,” Walther said.

In addition, the pontoon company has delivered 50 N-95 masks, which Crest workers use during some stages of the pontoon-making process, to Memorial Healthcare in Owosso.

“We are grateful to Crest for their generous donation of personal protective equipment to protect Memorial Healthcare caregivers as we work to protect the community during this COVID-19 epidemic,” Memorial President/CEO Brian Long said in an email. “From businesses, school systems and at-home woodworkers, to our brigade of volunteers sewing masks and surgical caps, the entire community has stepped up during this time of great need and we are sincerely grateful.”

Crest is one of many companies locally and across the nation helping fill the gaps in the availability of PPE for care givers. Upholstery workers at Woodard in Owosso Township also have been busy making protective gear while the wrought-iron furniture maker is shut down.

Starting some time next week — when an order of fabric is expected to be delivered — Crest will be offering mask sewing kits, including instructions, for anyone in the community to pick up, complete and return. Details will be posted next week on Crest’s Facebook page, Walther said.

The company’s volunteer workers got busy sewing for the cause starting Tuesday, and will continue participating in the #CrestCares initiative for an indefinite period of time.

“It’s a very fluid situation and we make our decisions daily,” May said. “As long as there’s a need, we’ll do what we can to support (the health care system).”

Crest is working in partnership with Hospital Mask Task Force!, a Michigan-based nonprofit composed of women who work for pacemaker company Biotronik, which has slowed operations since non-essential surgical procedures were put on hold during the crisis.

The volunteer task force is distributing donated face masks to hospitals around the state, prioritizing based on need, according to the group’s Facebook page. Walther said when he spoke with one of the task force volunteers last week, the group had orders for 13,000 masks.

MasterCraft acquired Crest Marine and NauticStar in 2018, and all three companies are supporting health care workers by sewing masks, May said. MasterCraft is helping in Tennessee, where it is headquartered, NauticStar in Mississippi and Crest in Michigan.

The mask-making volunteers at Crest are getting paid for their work, May said, but that’s not what’s motivating them.

“I believe they’re not doing this for the money, but because they care,” he said.

Walther added: “It’s a win-win, for hospitals in Michigan getting masks, and employees getting back to work.”

A news release Tuesday expressed Crest Marine’s appreciation for the medical professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic.

“We would like to thank all of the health care workers for their service,” the release states, “and we hope that everyone stays safe and healthy during this difficult period.

“We hope to be back in the water soon.”

May said the company’s annual pontoon raffle, which supports the training of Owosso High School students in the welding program at Baker College of Owosso, must be postponed until later in the summer because of the coronavirus crisis.

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