Oregon Small Businesses Step Up to Create PPE


Learn how Oregonians are pivoting their businesses to make masks, gowns, and more for frontline medical personnel during the COVID-19 crisis

OREGON – Due to a nationwide shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like masks, gowns, and gloves, and the vital need for PPE to keep health care workers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Oregon Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) is prioritizing the procurement and distribution of PPE across Oregon. But in the meantime, Oregonians across the state are taking action in remarkable ways. These are a few examples of ordinary people taking extraordinary measures to make PPE for their communities.

Face Masks
Hewn Elements is a Tualatin company that specializes in the wood and manufacturing industry. Friends reached out to them to see if they had business connections that could help with the shortage.

Although PPE isn’t a part of their normal line of business, they answered the call to think outside the box. “We took our talent and existing supply chain connections and came up with a mask design,” said Bret Morgan, an owner at Hewn Elements.

Hewn Elements employees found and purchased filtering fabric from Canada and began to sew. Over the next few weeks, they will produce and donate 6,000 masks to local hospitals and first responders. (Their masks are the ones pictured above.)

Face Mask Covers
Marley’s Monsters is a Eugene company that creates reusable products from fabric and wood. They too heard the need for PPE and knew they had to take action.

Marley’s Monsters Mask Cover Project repurposed existing fabric to transform into face mask covers. The covers fit over N95 masks used in healthcare and can make the masks last longer. Healthcare facilities and medical professionals can apply here to get free covers.

The Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers are a home-sewing group who organized through Facebook to start making mask covers. This group has made and donated 8,000 mask covers to the St. Charles Health System.

Other Bend area businesses are also getting involved. Ginger Dog Beds is using its equipment to pre-cut fabric and PinPoint Alterations is volunteering tailors to put their skills to use making masks.

Marley’s Monsters using fabrics to create face mask covers.

Face Shields
A Baker City hospital recently contacted Baker Technical Institute (BTI) to see if they could help with a shortage of face shields. The career technical education company was willing to answer the call.

 “When the hospital reached out and asked if BTI could produce these, I was excited to have an opportunity to contribute to the cause,” said Chris Wittich, BTI engineering instructor, in a press release.

They’re now using 3D printers to make face shields that are distributed to local hospitals. Healthcare providers can contact BTI online or by calling 541-524-2651.

Isolation Gowns
The stories of health care workers also brought together a new nonprofit called HM[B]50 out of Hood River.

They answered the call for PPE by fundraising for sewing machines. Then they teamed up with Immersion Research, Renewal Workshop, and USiA to produce disposable isolation gowns. Business Oregon also played a crucial role in sourcing material and connecting the effort with the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which is helping to improve production efficiency. Each gown costs $20 to make, and HM[B]50 is seeking donations to produce 1,000-2,000 gowns per week.

“We work in house, we raise individual donations, and we pay factory workers a living wage to produce the gowns that they make. Then we donate those gowns free of charge to doctors, nurses, and techs of the highest need,” says Jonathan Evergreen, HM[B]50 Operations Manager.

You can visit the HM[B]50 website to donate.

Thank you to all of our dedicated, innovative Oregonians stepping up to create PPE for our frontline workers. To donate PPE or volunteer your time, fill out this online form and someone from the Office of Emergency Management will get back to you.

A truck loaded with PPE made by HM[B]50

About Author

Amy Velez is an Operations & Policy Analyst with Oregon's Department of Administrative Services

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