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(Leominster, MA) – May 28, 2021 – AIS, a leading national manufacturer of commercial office furniture and seating, announced today it has donated and delivered 600,000 high-quality facemasks to over 500 organizations in 31 states across the U.S. through the company’s Sew the Masks program.
AIS began making high-quality facemasks – using antimicrobial fabrics and other premium materials – when the COVID-19 pandemic intensified last spring. In May 2020, after seeing the demand for masks would continue, AIS established a nationwide Sew the Masks initiative based on Rosie the Riveter, the WWII icon, and partnered with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts (UWNCM). The company activated internal production lines and close to 1,000 volunteer ‘Rosies’ in 45 states to create masks at their home sewing machines for donation and distribution to first responders, frontline workers and other people in need.
“Knowing how to react during challenging times is sometimes difficult. I am so proud of our employees, partners and the Rosies across the country who helped make a difference and fight the spread of COVID-19,” said AIS President and CEO Bruce Platzman. “We’ve provided support and protection for first responders, hundreds of organizations in need and high-risk communities from coast to coast.”
With the help of sponsors to augment the cost of materials, the Sew the Masks program, which ran from May 2020 through May 2021, included numerous small donations and several different large-scale initiatives which were intended to make a greater impact on struggling communities. AIS reached out to local schools, provided Election Day 2020 masks for poll workers and city officials in nearly 270 cities and towns in Massachusetts and 80 precincts in Washington, DC and partnered with the United Way for donations in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast. Food banks were another focus of distribution and AIS donated thousands of masks to individuals and families in need. Additionally, AIS supported charities nominated by AIS employees and their nationwide team of Rosies.
“The AIS/UWNCM partnership has been a lifeline to many smaller, rural United Ways in our region. Their level of focus to get folks ‘masked-up’ is no different than what our major cities are experiencing,” said John Emge, northeast regional engagement director for the United Way. “The AIS donation came at a great time to help maximize everyone’s efforts.”
Sew the Masks fulfilled 100% of all requests for masks and reached all corners of the country, from California to Massachusetts and from Texas to Minnesota. Additionally, AIS was recognized in September 2020 on the floor of the House of Representatives by Massachusetts Representative James McGovern for the Sew the Masks initiative. While the program is concluding, AIS acknowledges the unsung heroes of Sew the Masks. AIS’s factory sewing team along with volunteers across the country worked meticulously to create these high-quality masks to donate.
“The heart of the Sew the Masks program is our Rosies,” said Platzman. “We’ve had some volunteers sew over 1000 masks each - and ask when we can send them more materials. Many of the volunteers are older adults and have spent this past year stuck at home. They have shared that this program gave them hope and the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. Their selflessness is an inspiration to all of us,” he shared.
Over 16 Rosies had a family member who worked as an actual “Rosie” during WWII. They felt a kinship to the program which made them want to help. Husbands and wives worked together to sew masks, a family with three generations of sewers collaborated and more. Sewing as a pastime became relevant again and a way to make an impact.
“This was a safe and easy way for me to feel that I could do something worthwhile to be helpful while our world struggles through this awful pandemic. If even one mask that I made and donated were to prevent someone from getting sick, then the hours I spend with my sewing machine being a Rosie will have been so worth it,” said Rosie Lisa Willis of Massachusetts.
“I wanted to donate my time but knew going out of the house wasn't the way to do it. My mother-in-law was a real Rosie and I wanted to honor her as well. Plus, I got a new sewing machine last year and never got it out of the box!” said Rosie Doris Blackmon from Idaho.
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AIS, headquartered in Leominster, Massachusetts, is a leading manufacturer of commercial office furniture and boasts one of the most impressive stories of growth and success in the furniture industry. Founded in 1989, the company is known for offering market-relevant, feature-rich product lines that entice designers and support the diverse needs of end-users while offering exceptional value. AIS is an innovator that leads the industry in sustainable, lean manufacturing, lead-time performance and manufacturing flexibility. The Boston Business Journal has twice recognized AIS – in 2019 and 2020 - with its Corporate Citizenship Award. AIS has permanent showrooms at its Leominster headquarters and in Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. With locations across the U.S., AIS has more than 800 employees and over 1 million square feet of office, showroom and factory space. For more information, visit www.ais-inc.com.