GLI Keeps Making, Donating Masks to Fill ‘Great Need’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – From April 3 through April 10, GLI Pool Products estimates it will have delivered enough masks and mask-sewing kits to help protect as many as 120,000 people, estimates owner Gary Crandall.

The hope was to find enough volunteers to help it make 100,000 masks. “That’s out the window. We’re going to keep going,” Crandall said April 8.

The Youngstown-based company does not charge for the masks it makes or the mask-sewing kits.

Since its cutting machines allow workers to cut the fabric faster than they can sew it, GLI put out a call for volunteers to help with the assembly after receiving the cotton fabric to make the masks.

The result April 3 was “a conga-line of cars,” full of volunteers waiting to pick up masks and sewing kits. “We had 68 wonderful patriots lined up outside,” Crandall says.

Some people picked up as few as 10 kits, others as many as 500, he says. “We’re getting so many requests that we’re being overwhelmed. There’s a great need out there.”

So great the company is beginning to find it hard to source material.

Crandall says buyers have been purchasing the tie strings and nosepieces from suppliers, and relying on donations of fabric from a variety of sources, including Joann Fabric. “It’s been coming from everywhere. There are a lot of good people in this country,” he says.

The masks aren’t the high-grade masks worn inside intensive care units that treat people with COVID-19. Instead they are meant to be used by medical and other staff in need of some protection.

Made from two-ply cotton, the masks cover the nose and mouth and contain a pouch in the front of where a screen or other filter can be inserted.

The masks are being donated to local hospitals, first responders and nursing homes.

Rich Limongi, CEO of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Retirement Services, picked up 200 masks Tuesday after reading this story published by The Business Journal.“ I sent an email to GLI Pools and Gary Crandall immediately responded back and said he’d see what they could give us,” he says.

The masks are currently being used throughout the organization, Limongi says.

Shepherd of the Valley employs just fewer than 500, and the additional masks will allow its staff to save their N95 masks for when they are needed.

As of April 8, Limongi said no staff or residents at Shepherd of the Valley had tested positive for COVID-19.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown says he picked up 200 masks for the city’s police and fire departments and then got more to give to the street and wastewater crews.

“These are individuals who are not necessarily coming into contact with the public. But when they’re out in their cars and working on the street, it gives them another layer of protection,” Brown says.

Another plus is that the masks are washable, which allows them to be re-used. Like Limongi, Brown says the masks will help preserve the limited amount of N95 masks in the city’s stockpile.

“This helps us stretch out our first responders so that if they’re not going into a public space, they don’t have to use their N95.”

Crandall says a little less than half of his staff is working on sewing the masks.

GLI makes swimming pool liners and protective covers, which are sold through wholesale and retail networks. The company is privately owned.

Since April 3, workers who ordinarily would be sewing pool covers have been busy sewing masks.

Because the liners and covers are the last pieces ordered when a pool is installed, Crandall says business has been steadily “running on momentum,” although he believes it will eventually see a slowdown.

“On the positive side, folks are not anxious to get back in airplanes or back on cruise ships,” he says. “Staycations are going to become more important to folks.”

As such GLI, which during peak season employs 350, is ramping up staff. Crandall says it’s looking to fill 40 positions covering all three shifts. Applicants don’t need to know how to sew or seal; they just need to pass a drug test, he says.

“If you want a job and you’re laid off, we’ll find something for you here.”

Applicants may even find themselves helping their neighbors and communities in the fight against COVID-19

“It’s gratifying for our folks to do something for the community,” Crandall says. “I’m really proud of all of them.”

Pictured: GLI Pool Products employees Teresa Clark and Cheryl Eley are among the staff making masks.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.