Updated: Apr 24, 2020
We are thrilled to announce that AZ Apparel Foundation has received funding to purchase the sewing machines needed for its efforts to help mitigate the PPE shortage!
Thanks to the generosity of Flinn Foundation, AZ Community Foundation, The Thunderbirds, Tempe Industrial Development Authority, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Pakis Center for Business Philanthropy, an anonymous donor, and individual community donations, the industrial equipment needed to really make an impact has been secured.
There are now four production lines set up on what was formerly the FABRIC runway. That’s a total of 34 machines that have been added. We’ve already hired and trained 18 people who have been sewing and will be hiring 18 more. Once each production line is filled with sewing technicians, we expect to produce about 2000 reusable isolation gowns in an eight hour shift. We have also partnered with other FDA Certified factories to help fill the larger orders for the large healthcare facilities. By doing so, this will free up one of our production lines so that we can dedicate it to filling the need for the smaller facilities in rural areas and reservations.
Earlier this week we delivered 300 reusable isolation gowns to St. Joseph’s Hospital!
Just last month, we were a fashion incubator helping apparel entrepreneurs with design development and manufacturing very small quantities for them to help them get started. We weren’t set up to manufacture more than about 200 items at a time. We are very excited and proud to already be filling these PPE orders, although it hasn’t come without its challenges.
Interestingly enough, once we had managed to get past the hurdle of securing the scarce AAMI-approved fabric and acquiring so much additional machinery and staff, we thought we had made it over the biggest hurdles. However, finding all of the necessary trims like the proper bias binding, the thread, and the special FDA-required labeling inside, outside and on the packaging of the garments....in the large volume needed, and in the quick timeframe required.... has also been a huge challenge. Additionally, we now receive a regular weekly shipment of AAMI approved material and have completely rearranged things in our fashion incubator to accommodate for staging this material. Our former fabric store/sourcing library is now material storage! We’ve even turned our backstage/classroom into a breakroom for the dozens of new employees we’ve hired.
Each day is a new experience and a new challenge. Each member of our team has had to learn new skills and pitch in to make this happen. It has been messy, exhausting, emotional, and stressful, but at the end of the day, everyone on the team is motivated by a common goal to help protect our healthcare workers.