As Lowell sewing company shifts into mask production, community says thank you

“Anyone who’s an essential employee, no matter what they’re doing, deserves our gratitude because they don’t have the luxury to stay home."

Caroline Kimball-Katz said people are looking for the bright spots. 

On Sunday, she took to Twitter to recognize her dad’s Lowell-based sewing factory, UnWrapped, which has been producing 8,500 masks and gowns a day to send to those on the frontline fighting COVID-19. Kimball-Katz said she’s also been crafting thank-you cards to send to the factory workers, and the community responded — many enlisting to help make cards and others offering their appreciation in the comments. 

“For me, it was all about showing a little bit of a spotlight on a business that’s been in Lowell for decades,” she said of the 26-year-old company. “They’re a real community-driven place.”

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Kimball-Katz said just like her dad, people are trying to figure out the ways they can help. 

UnWrapped, which normally manufactures reusable bags and military gloves but has made knee braces and hospital bedding in the past, swiftly made the switch to produce medical products, founder and President Stephen Katz said in a statement.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were working with Circular Blu to make reusable bags out of recycled sterilization wrap — the material to wrap surgical instruments before they’re used — so it was the obvious choice to use that same material to make masks and gowns,” Katz said. 

He said his team of “talented, powerful sewers” designed their mask before producing it daily, in mass quantities.

“We pivoted from making reusable bags to making masks in just one day, before any orders had come in,” Katz said. “We knew this was serious and something we could do to respond.” 

“We’ve shifted almost all our sewers over to masks from other contracts because it’s the right thing to do; we want to have boxes ready before the orders even come in.”
Stephen Katz, UnWrapped

He said he thinks by the end of the week, the factory can be making up to 20,000 masks a day. 

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“We’ve shifted almost all our sewers over to masks from other contracts because it’s the right thing to do; we want to have boxes ready before the orders even come in,” Katz said. “Manufacturing is a tough business in America, and I’m very proud we are here to do our part to keep our health care workers and many others safe.” 

After producing the masks, they’re sent off to hospitals and health centers across the state. 

Kimball-Katz said her dad isn’t interested in receiving recognition — just getting the work done. Though she said the number of people wanting to engage with the story behind his work is symbolic. 

Those who interacted with her over social media were expressing gratitude and responding to the human element behind locals who’ve stepped up to fill gaps amid the pandemic, Kimball-Katz said. 

One commenter even offered nostalgia. 

For some weird reason, this gives me all the feels of old-school, small-town MA communities where you always had on a pot of coffee to welcome a neighbor who wants a chat,” she wrote. “Big thanks to your dad and crew for caring about others!”

Others asked if the factory needed fabric donations or help with distribution. 

Kimball-Katz said through her post, she hoped to bring attention to ways of expressing appreciation for those risking their lives to provide essential services.

 “Anyone who’s an essential employee, no matter what they’re doing, deserves our gratitude because they don’t have the luxury to stay home,” she said. 

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And making thank-you cards was something small she could contribute from home while sitting at her desk, taking a break from screen time. 

She said a handful of folks have joined her efforts to make and send cards to the sewing factory. 

Compared to big name companies, Kimball-Katz said she also hoped to acknowledge UnWrapped, since it’s “the little guy that is also kind of answering the call to serve and to make what we need to slow the pandemic.” 

As her dad and his team of about 200 workers continue producing equipment, she said she’s so proud, but also scared. 

“I imagine most people who have family members who are essential workers are really proud and worried,” she said.

But as the pandemic continues, she said she’s had to accept the risk and be okay with it as loved ones step up to fill gaps, fighting the virus.


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