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Local company switches gears to make face masks for health care workers

The manufacturing facility, which traditionally manufactures paddle sports accessories, is now working to make face masks for health care workers.

Posted: Apr 14, 2020 6:25 PM
Updated: Apr 14, 2020 6:28 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- With shortages of protective gear endangering health care workers, one Eugene business owner has decided to use his resources to create change.

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Ken Rodgers is the owner of Whitewater Designs, a business that was launched in 1984. Years later, he opened Oregon Paddle Sports, a canoe and kayak store in West Eugene. His business has encountered a large loss of sales from the pandemic, but that did not stop them from finding a way to serve the community.

Rodgers’ manufacturing facility, which traditionally manufactures paddle sports accessories, is now utilized to create face masks for health care workers.

“We have the technology, equipment, sewing machines and the (Direct Imaging) presses to punch out the parts very quickly and very accurately,” Rodgers said.

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This is a joint effort. Rodgers is currently teaming up with a PeaceHealth hospital without charging any manufacturing costs. The hospital sends the fabric to Whitewater Designs and mask kits are then created and sent back to the hospital.

Volunteers searching for ways to help can then receive the mask kits and sew them from their homes with the materials provided by Whitewater Designs.

Rodgers said that it brings his team a sense of purpose to know they are contributing to addressing a critical shortage in the community.

“Helping people see their dreams -- there’s an awful lot in that,” Rodgers said. “Doing something when people are in dire need -- the emergency level. It’s just icing on the cake.”

Rodgers said that around 500 kits have been made so far, allowing for thousands of masks to be provided to health care workers.

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