Two local companies retool to make masks
by Bill Kirk, Eagle Tribune
The creative folks at National Fiber Technology didn't have much to do when Hollywood stopped making movies and orders for their furry masks and suits dried up. But President Kim Clark, whose company leases space at the Everett Mill on Union Street, wasn't quite ready to throw in the towel. "Two of our biggest clients have shut down," said Clark, whose company is famous for making the Chewbacca costume for the Star Wars movies. "I have 16 employees. I don't want to lay them off, but I don't have any work." That's when they were contacted by the folks at Debbie's Treasure Chest, a non-profit located in the same Everett Mill building. "They hooked us up with Lawrence General Hospital, as well as the City of Methuen and the local MSPCA, which had donated all their surgical masks to the hospital," Clark said. The MSPCA needed non-surgical masks to replace the surgical masks they had donated. And Lawrence General, along with the City of Methuen, both needed masks for employees. NFT's staff quickly made the switch from sewing masks for Chewbacca -- the lovable hero and sidekick to Han Solo -- to making face masks for people who are looking for a first line of defense against the coronavirus. NFT is now making "non-medical grade masks" for employees who don't regularly interact with patients but who may want to wear something to keep them safe in a work environment that could be considered high risk. "We have the skills and the machinery, so I said, 'Let's just keep going,'" she said. "We'll make them and donate them to whoever needs them. And we're keeping everybody on salary and continuing their health care coverage."