Conway swimwear manufacturer delivers 35,000 retrofitted masks to Tidelands

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And that’s a wrap.

In two weeks, Tara Grinna Swim & Resort Wear completed the extraordinary effort of sewing new elastic bands on 35,000 never-used N95 respirators for Tidelands Health team members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The local swimwear manufacturer stepped up to offer the materials and manpower to retrofit the respirators with new bands after the original elastic became brittle following years of storage in a warehouse. The N95s had been acquired during a previous health emergency and never used.

The Conway manufacturing center, which had been closed because of the pandemic, started back up March 30 and has been cranking out retrofitted respirators thanks to a crew of employees and community members – all of whom volunteered for the tedious task of hand sewing elastic bands onto the N95s.

“Our local volunteer staff has been simply – and there is no other way to put it – amazing,” Tara Grinna wrote on the company’s Facebook page. “Some have been there every day, and one even brought prizes like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc., as daily prizes for the sewer with the most boxes completed.

“I cannot thank these people enough… We couldn’t have done it without all the hard work and sore fingers from each one!”

The professional-grade respirators, in high demand and short supply across the country, are used to protect health care workers from exposure to the virus. The N95 respirators retrofitted by Tara Grinna, coupled with tens of thousands sewn by individual community volunteers in recent weeks, will extend the supply at Tidelands Health by several weeks.

In all, more than 2,000 community volunteers signed up to retrofit N95s, and volunteers are finishing up their work this week.

“Our team is truly amazed at the support of Tara Grinna and all the community volunteers who took on this sewing task,” said Pam Maxwell, chief nursing officer at Tidelands Health. “We simply cannot fully express how much this means to our Tidelands Health team. The care and support that has gone into each respirator is a reminder of how much our community supports us during this unprecedented time.”

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