As health-care workers contend with a shortage of personal protective equipment, including face masks, Jo-Ann customers are chipping in both with their time and their wallets.
Over the past two weeks, the fabric and craft retailer has sold materials to make 20 million masks. In the same period, the company has donated materials to make about 5 million masks, for a total of 25 million masks going to protect health-care workers, public service employees and communities in need.
Since March 23, Jo-Ann has been giving away free kits to shoppers with the fabric, elastic and other necessary materials needed to make masks. Open Jo-Ann stores have served as collection points for the completed masks, which customers can make at home and then drop off. In parallel, the company has started classrooms in its stores for those who want to help, complete with sewing machines and instructions; classes follow social-distancing guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, Jo-Ann is working with larger hospitals and medical facilities to provide essential materials including fabric, elastic and clear vinyl. The chain is also providing fabric and materials recommended for medical settings to Neiman Marcus Group. Then, the group’s alterations facilities receive the product and create personal protective equipment, such as masks, gowns and scrubs for health-care providers. Employees in the luxury department store’s alterations facilities are following CDC social-distancing guidelines while creating the products.
While Jo-Ann has received praise for its efforts to support the fight against COVID-19, it has also received blowback from consumers and employees concerned that the company’s decision to keep stores open amid the coronavirus crisis constitutes a public health risk. On BuzzFeed, multiple Jo-Ann workers allege that the fabric and crafts chain is offering free mask-making materials as a “slapdash” effort to remain open as an “essential” retailer in locations taking stay-at-home orders. A Jo-Ann spokesperson did not immediately respond to FN’s request for comment on these allegations. However, a representative from the company told FN the mask program came from an altruistic place.
“We noticed groups of people in the crafting and sewing communities making protective masks, gowns and other essential items and donating them to hospitals and health-care facilities and felt like we could help them do even more. As a company, we were inspired by our customers who are pitching in during this unprecedented crisis, and we wanted to do what we could to contribute,” a Jo-Ann spokesperson said.
This story has been updated to include Jo-Ann’s response to FN.
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