Boys and Girls Club and Owl Mfg. step up to fill need for personal protective equipment

In times of crisis, people pull together to do what’s needed and to do what’s right.

And that’s especially true in small communities like Seymour.

From helping to feed medical workers at Schneck Medical Center and emergency responders on the front lines to supporting local small businesses, the community has stepped up in a variety of ways in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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But it’s not just adults who are offering a hand. At the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, children are doing their part, too.

Using the club’s three-dimensional printer, members are producing ear guards for face masks to supply to emergency workers.

Kendra Harris, program director at the club, said they were able to make some ear guards for the hospital but have not received any more requests for them.

“I had two individuals send the idea to me through Facebook, and then someone from the health department reached out to us asking if we could make some,” Harris said. “Since there seemed to be a need, we downloaded the file and started printing them.”

Her two sons, John Jr. and Rusty, both helped out with the project and liked using the club’s technology in a way that benefits others, she said.

Also contributing to the community’s COVID-19 relief efforts is Seymour Community School Corp.

Superintendent Brandon Harpe said the school system wanted to help in any way needed.

“The community is so supportive of us, and it is nice to be able to help the community when we can,” he said.

It already has shared supplies with Schneck and a few other community organizations throughout the pandemic and made its laundry services available to the hospital.

Another idea took shape involving Seymour High School’s Owl Manufacturing program.

“When we heard there was a need for personal protective equipment items in the community, our school district wanted to do everything we could to help,” Harpe said. “We thought about Owl Manufacturing because we knew there were some instructions going around for face shields.”

Using the school’s manufacturing lab and 3D printers, teachers Curt Schleibaum and Jeremy Wischmeier made a few of the face shields as a prototype.

{span class=”_5yl5”}{span}They cut 2-by-1-foot sections of clear plastic from a 4-by-8-foot sheet. Then they used a laser cutter to cut the shape of the visors out and heated it up to mold the curve, Schleibaum said. The laser cutter was used again to cut plastic for head straps. They are fastened together with a zip tie and a hair band to hold it to the wearer’s head.{/span}{/span}

“The hospital really liked them. The problem was they would not hold up in a sanitizer after use,” Harpe said. “So Curt went back to work.”

With a little help from Seymour City Councilman Matt Wheeler, who operates local small business The Engraver, they came up with a different method to make the headbands out of another material that would withstand sanitation.

Besides The Engraver, Schleibaum said he also was able to utilize local supplier General Rubber for the clear plastic for the face protectors.

{span class=”_5yl5”}{span}The two teachers were able to produce 50 of the face shields, and Schleibaum delivered them to Jackson County Emergency Management Agency for distribution. They also were able to use their 3D printer to produce some of the ear protectors for face masks.{/span}{/span}

{span class=”_5yl5”}{span}Students were not able to participate in the project as all schools are shut down.{/span}{/span}

{span class=”_5yl5”}{span}They still have some material left over if more shields are needed.{/span}{/span}

“I am really proud of Curt and Jeremy and all of Owl Manufacturing,” Harpe said.

{span class=”_5yl5”}{span}Being educators first and foremost, the two are using the project as a lesson for their students.{/span}{/span}

{span class=”_5yl5”}{span}”We have documented the process and plan to use photos and information from the build with current students through our eLearning setup,” Schleibaum said. “I think it has been an interesting way for our students to see how we can quickly adapt the manufacturing ability of our classroom to support our community.”{/span}{/span}

Duane Davis, director of Jackson County EMA, said everyone has stepped up to play a role in the fight against COVID-19.

“It is amazing how our community can rally together to help one another out,” he said. “We are blessed to be able to partner with organizations, businesses, manufacturers, individuals and our schools.”

After the Indiana Department of Homeland Security activated the State Emergency Operational Center in March, Davis said he was able to request personal protective equipment the county would need through April.

Even though he has requested Tyvek suits, goggles and masks, Davis said they have yet to receive them.

“Other items we have requested have been cots and blankets, 100 each, for Schneck Medical Center to help meet their needs for any medical surge,” he said.

The Jackson County Health Department has provided some equipment received from the Indiana State Department of Health.

“It appears that PPE is holding up well, but we continue to look for additional supplies,” Davis said.