GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Oh, Hello Co. is one of many Michigan businesses whose doors closed when the state's stay home, stay safe order was issued last month. But in the last week, the owners saw their opportunity to make a difference for health workers during the pandemic.
"I was talking to my mother. We were on the phone and I was saying how they were showing on TV, everyone had these raw ears from the face masks and everything," said Alex Benda who runs the business with his wife Kayla.
“Each one is a person that’s risking their lives that has to wear a mask long enough that their ears are going to blister."
The Bendas looked online and saw that other people were already making ear savers, but they thought they could improve on the designs that were already out there to make something more comfortable, using a laser.
“It just allows for a lot faster manufacturing. We realized that we could pump these out in the tens of thousands," Alex said. “I posted online that if anyone needs these, I’ve got a ton of material. I’m happy to cut them for any of our friends that need them."
A friend picked up the original version of the design and offered some feedback. Five iterations later, the team had its design. Each set comes with two plastic pieces that are held together by a hair tie.
The Bendas are giving the ear savers to health care workers for free. Demand has been heavy.
“In the first 24 hours we put out around 5,000 pairs," Alex said."We’ve had an entire U.S. Navy destroyer ship an order from us. We had about 3,000 pairs going out to Metro Health today. We just did another 3,000 to New York and they’re ordering in the thousands for entire hospitals. Australia has purchased. We’ve done the UK. It’s amazing. Nursing homes.”
The endeavor has become a community effort.
“We ran out of hair ties, so we asked our neighbors if they can pick up some hair ties. We put the call out on our neighborhood Facebook page and we’ve gotten people who come over and as soon as they’re off the machine, they take all the orders and they stuff the bags as fast as possible. We’ve got this dead drop system in front of our house," Alex said.“We’ve had about 30 to 40 families help do this. We have kids writing thank you letters to the hospitals."
The company is asking for monetary donations to go toward material used to make the ear savers. Or, if you have a laser, you can help manufacture the design.
"Yesterday three different other laser people started making them, so now we’ve tripled our output," Alex said.
If you'd like to help or if you know someone who needs the ear savers, you can visit a special section of the company's website.
"We’re not going to quit. We’re going to keep moving forward until the wheels fall off," Alex said.
How others are helping during the pandemic:
- Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan helps meet the dietary needs of seniors during COVID-19 pandemic
- Cherry Health opens drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Grand Rapids
- Grand Rapids lab will start processing 3,000 COVID-19 tests a day
- Local fashion designer making masks during crisis
- To help with meat shortage, Grand Haven restaurant sells raw, frozen chicken with orders
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