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Tuesday, 21 July 2020 11:05

Richmond County Schools picks up 16K face masks from Therafirm

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Therafirm employee Mark James helps Richmond County Schools employees load boxes of masks for students and staff. Therafirm employee Mark James helps Richmond County Schools employees load boxes of masks for students and staff. Contributed photo

HAMLET — Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Maples rolled up to Therafirm just before 9 a.m. Tuesday and left with more than 16,000 face masks for students and staff.


“It’s pretty awesome that Ken (Hartley) and Therafirm (are) partnering with us to help keep our students and staff safe,” Maples said. “That’s a priority of ours and we certainly appreciate everything they’ve done.”

Hartley, vice president of North Carolina Operations for Therafirm, announced Monday that his company would be donating 8,100 packs of masks — for a total of 16,200 — to the district.

Maples said Hartley reached out to the school system a few weeks ago about the donation.

“I was just taken back,” Maples said. “This order would cost $50-$75,000 and for Therafirm to reach out and say, ‘Here, we care about Richmond County, we care about your students and teachers and how can we help out’ … I’m just touched that he would do that.”

According to Hartley, the credit goes to the higher-ups at Knit-Rite Inc., which owns Therafirm.

“Our owners are committed to the communities, we’re committed to giving back, we’re committed to helping and assisting in however we can do that,” Hartley said, whether it’s from the Hamlet plant or the Kansas City, Kansas, facility.

“When we realised that the schools were going to be coming back … we knew that with the mandates for face coverings that maybe we had an opportunity to reach out and help those in Richmond County,” Hartley said, adding that the owners asked him to follow up with the school system. “If we can do something to help the quality of life here in Richmond County, then, by all means, we’re going to try and do it.”

Maples said Hartley called him last week to tell him the masks were ready for pickup.

“Ken and Therafirm have always been big supporters of Richmond County and Richmond County Schools,” Maples said, adding that Hartley has been on the Career and Technical Education advisory council for several years, including serving as chairman.

Hartley has also provided internships for students at the plant, which normally manufacturers medical-grade compression legwear, so they can get experience in the field, according to Maples

“We’ve received some really good students,” Hartley said of the interns. “We’re hoping that they will be our future.”

When there was a mask shortage in early April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Therafirm switched production to develop and manufacture masks.

“Our technicians were absolutely fantastic, did a fantastic job whenever it came to converting these machines from making legwear to making face masks,” Hartley said. “We’ve got some really special people (who) understand machinery and know how to make it do virtually anything we need it or want it to do.”

Maples said it was fortunate that Therafirm was able to adapt so quickly to the market demand.

The company has 94 employees, but has had to furlough some during the pandemic, according to Hartley.

He added that Therafirm is starting to see business return to normalcy domestically and is looking for foreign sales to pick back up.

The company, which has been in Richmond County for about two decades and at the Hamlet location for several years, ships out to around 50 countries, according to Hartley.

Hartley said the company is still getting orders for the masks and requests for donations.

 

William R. Toler

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