Made in KC, Sandlot Goods making face masks for healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic

The Prairie Village City Council on Monday voted against adopting an ordinance that would have required people in the city limits to wear a face mask in public settings like stores. The city will instead form a group working to promote voluntary adherence to public health officials' strong recommendations to wear masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

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Made in KC and Sandlot Goods have teamed up to make cotton face masks and plastic face shields to fill the high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local hospitals in Johnson County and the Kansas City metro area have put out the call for personal protective equipment. Citing this need, Sandlot owner and Fairway resident Chad Hickman,  said they have the tools; now, all they need is donations and sewers.

The two companies are mobilizing Sandlot staff — who normally sew wallets, tote bags and the like — while enlisting other professional and hobbyist sewers to make 8,000 to 10,000 face masks per week.

“We view this as an opportunity to employ makers and artists who cannot currently work otherwise or who don’t have a retail outlet currently,” said Keith Bradley, Made in KC co-owner.

Designed to follow CDC guidelines while maintaining durability and effectiveness, the double-layer masks consist of a 100% cotton ripstop outer layer intended to prevent shrinkage in the wash, and a 100% cotton muslin inner layer.

The masks will fit over an N95 mask in order to prolong its life, but are not intended as substitutes for the N95.

Each mask will cost $1.50 to produce in labor and materials and the companies are collecting donations.

Details on how to get involved and/or donate are on Sandlot’s website.

For those sewers interested in pitching in Sandlot will drop off a kit on each sewer’s doorstep with all the pre-cut materials to sew the face masks. Sandlot then picks up finished masks, runs quality control, and sends them to hospitals where they are sanitized.

The companies’ intent is to sell the masks to hospitals and use the revenues to purchase even more materials so they can keep production going. If hospitals cannot pay for them, they will donate the products to healthcare workers.

As many small businesses are deemed non-essential, Hickman felt the need to do something, especially to help his employees who are like family to him.

“I think there’s just been this collective like what do we do? Do we sit around? Do we try to get people to buy stuff online?” Hickman said. “It just felt like sort of begging and pleading with people for money to keep us going.”

Then, after talking to a few people in the medical industry and following the news, Hickman and the Made in KC owners decided to switch gears.

“We just need something to get behind,” Hickman said. “I can do two things: I can work hard to keep my people going, and then I can fill a need with masks.”