Maine’s Business Community Rallies Together For The Frontline

Over the past five weeks, the COVID-19 crisis has changed life in Maine, along with the rest of the world, in dramatic and unprecedented ways. Essential workers—health care providers and fire and rescue first responders, USPS, UPS, and FedEx carriers, supermarkets employees, gas station attendants, and tollbooth operators, among so many others—are fighting to combat the pandemic in myriad brave ways every day. Faced with a most formidable challenge, it has become clear that all hands are required on deck to help our state persevere and prevail through this time. Companies large and small, as well as numerous volunteer outlets, are working to get personal protective equipment (PPE), food, and other necessary supplies to those who need them most right now. We’ve rounded up some of these efforts below, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] if you know of other organizations who are working to support others during this novel time.

Photo courtesy of Hardshore Distilling Company.

Breweries (including Allagash, Rising Tide, Oxbow, Foundation, Shipyard, Maine Beer Company, Bissell Brothers Brewing, and Baxter Brewing Co.) and distilleries (including Hardshore Distilling Company, New England Distilling, Stroudwater Distillery, Maine Craft Distilling, Split Rock Distilling, and Sebago Lake Distillery) have joined forces to help meet the demand for sanitizer in Maine’s hospitals. “We knew nothing about making hand sanitizer until this all happened,” says Jordan Milne, founder and distiller at Hardshore Distilling Company in Portland. “What we do know is that our state’s hospitals are running out of it, and the call has come for us to step up and fill in the supply gap. This is our first collaboration with other distilleries or breweries. I always envisioned our first collaboration being an interesting gin or whiskey that we’d create with a single brewery partner. Instead it’s a product that will help our healthcare workers on the frontline that’s been crafted in concert with over a dozen other local makers. That’s way better.” 

L.L. Bean’s factory floor; photo by Peter Frank Edwards.

L.L.Bean has turned from Bean Boots to PPE after receiving a plea from MaineHealth. Employees who typically stitch and sew Bean Boots and Boat and Totes in the Maine manufacturing facilities are now producing medical masks made out of their dog bed liner. The iconic Maine brand is working to create nearly 10,000 protective masks per day for first responders and healthcare workers at the frontline, and has been able to secure more than one million medical masks for local hospitals by leveraging their global supply chain relationships. The company is in the process of developing other protective gear, including surgical masks, booties, and gowns, and is also using its shipping hub to sort and pack food for Good Shepherd Food Bank

New Balance is utilizing its Norridgewock facility to produce masks for both health care workers and those not at the frontline. In a letter to the New Balance community, president and CEO Joe Preston, writes that the athletic shoe company is ramping up production and estimates they’ll be able to produce 100,000 face masks weekly.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear has created a non-medical grade mask for purchase by consumers, with comfort as well as efficacy in mind. They are sold in packs of five for $20.

Photo courtesy of Sea Bags.

Sea Bags is focusing its efforts on face masks and shields, donating its first 300 face masks to 75 State Street, a retirement community in Portland. “We’re working hard to do what we can to help—within our capacity to help —by producing these masks and shields,” says Don Oakes, CEO of Sea Bags. “We are focusing on and working with organizations and groups that do not have the supply chain or the resources to procure these.”

Rogue Wear, a Maine-based apparel brand, is helping small businesses through T-shirt sales on their site, as well as producing masks available to buy on its website.

Family-run textile company American Roots has partnered with Flowfold to produce shields, masks, and gowns for healthcare workers.

Biddeford manufacturing company Thermoformed Plastics of New England has partnered with Alene Candles to make face shields for first responders, starting with the city of Biddeford police and fire departments.

Baxter Brewing Co. is making deliveries from Augusta to York and donating all of the tips they receive to the Good Shepherd Food Bank to support the children’s insecurity fund. “At Baxter, our favorite projects are ones that reflect our heart,” says Baxter Brewing President Jenn Lever. “COVID-19 challenged us to rethink how we deliver our beloved beers to our fans in a moment when comfort and familiarity are scarce.  When a member of the Baxter family suggested donating our tips to Good Shepherd, there was no hesitation to make this a part of our delivery mission. This is the same impulse behind our Passion Project beers: highlight some of the amazing organizations we are fortunate enough to partner with through beer.” They will also be selling masks made by one of their employees for $10, with all proceeds going to Good Shepherd.

Cooking For Community is a volunteer-led organization working with Catholic Charities of Maine, Wayside Food Programs, Amistad and Preble Street, as well as restaurants including Chaval and Little Giant, to ensure that Maine’s neediest are getting warm meals every single day. Click here to donate.

Grassroots effort Feeding the Frontlines is working with restaurants like Luke’s Lobster, Woodford Food and Beverage, Union, and Solo Italiano to provide meals for health care workers, first responders, and vulnerable populations. Supporting these restaurants through takeout, delivery, and gift cards helps give back to others in need at this time.

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