In a time where many are left feeling helpless concerning the current state of everyday life, making protective gear, including masks, has given some people a feeling of purpose.
2003 graduate of Amery High School, Dustin Coleman, currently lives in Unity, New Hampshire and is the owner of COLE-TAC.
After high school, Coleman enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and then attended and graduated from UW-Stout with and Engineering Technology degree. His first job was with Flambeau Plastics and then Ruger Firearms in New Hampshire. He said, “I was an engineer for Ruger Firearms and wanted a suppressor cover for myself.” After buying a suppressor that didn’t work well for him, Coleman and his wife decided they could do better. They had success with what they constructed. They even made a few extras that they gave to Coleman’s friends who were also shooters and they too liked the product. Next, COLE-TAC was born.
COLE-TAC cuts and sews gear for the long range shooting community. A typical day before COVID-19, saw them answering phone calls from people all over the world wanting to know what piece of COLE-TAC gear is the best fit for them. “That side of the business is still strong as people are still getting out and practicing and getting ready for when the world can get back to normal,” said Coleman.
Coleman felt compelled to step up as the COVID-19 pandemic presented some serious issues for the medical community. He said, “During this craziness we kept hearing of all of the shortages of personal protective equipment in the medical field and how people are being asked to sew items at home. We have Computer Numerical Control (CNC) fabric cutting and a factory filled with industrial machines and we knew we could use these tools to produce a lot more than what people are capable at home.”
Coleman and his wife talked about it the night of March 20th and decided isolation gowns would be fairly straightforward for them to construct. “I developed the patterns that night. I came into work on the 21st and set up a plan with my shop manager on how we could accomplish it. Not only did I want to help the medical community in this crisis, but I also wanted to make sure team members stayed employed. I was concerned if the stay at home order would have deemed us “non-essential”, everyone would be staying at home and all of our tools would sit idle that could help fill a giant need,” said Coleman.
The next day they were on their way to Massachusetts to pick up an industrial Serger sewing machine, as they normally did not need one for their products. By Monday morning they were making their first gowns and trying to find facilities in need. “I had to find new sources for cotton fabric and our first truck load came in later that week. It took a little while for nursing homes and hospitals to find out that we were making the gowns, but since then, it has been non-stop with requests. I had to go yesterday to pick up more equipment to meet the demands. With the new equipment and processes in place, we are hoping to be completing 100 to 150 gowns a day,” Coleman said.
His team is also making washable facemasks under a GoFundMe they started with two other industry/company friends. Coleman said, “We have a goal to make and donate 10,000 masks, and we are well on our way with that.”
Locally, many people have rolled up their sleeves to assist with the ever-growing need for masks.
A drop box at the Fitness Center in Amery has received donations of masks from people in the area who are putting their sewing skills to great use.
Recently Clayton Lions Club members met with Cindy and Bill Vanda to present a $500 check for supplies to make Covid-19 facemasks. Cindy has been providing several facilities in the area with facemasks made by local volunteers. Much of the fabric has been donated, but some supplies, such as the elastic used to hold masks to faces is in short supply. After the first week of April, about a thousand facemasks had been made and distributed.