COVID-19: MeBIC Partners and Immigrants Get the Job Done to Support Public Health

MeBIC Board Member Adele Ngoy, clothing designer and owner of Antoine’s Formal Wear and Tailor Shop in Portland, has switched gears from fashion design, wedding dresses, and alterations, to making cloth masks.  While her normal business had to close during the COVID-19 crisis, as this report highlights, she and her immigrant staff responded by making masks to donate for free to people and facilities, such as nursing homes, where they’re needed.

MeBIC partner, apparel manufacturer American Roots of Westbrook, has felt the full brunt of COVID-19, at one point laying off most of its staff as the economic impact of the pandemic caused a swift and sharp drop in product demand.

But a factory that produces hoodies and vests can pivot to create PPE – personal protective equipment – for health care workers.   And  stitchers can learn to sew new patterns, and get used to a workplace with strict social distancing and cleaning standards.

And that’s just what American Roots did, as this op-ed in the Washington Post explains.   It took creativity and effort, but it also took a workforce to make the pivot happen.   Most of American Roots’ stitchers are first-generation immigrants.  While staying home and collecting unemployment would have been a rational option, these employees chose instead to get back to work, to help ensure that health care workers who are on the front lines trying to keep all of us safe and well have the PPE they need.   Recently, Governor Mills announced that American Roots will be making masks for all state employees as well.

MeBIC is grateful to American Roots’ and Antoine’s Formal Wear and Tailor Shop’s owners’ and employees’ for their commitment to the greater community, while also keeping their businesses, with their positive economic impact, engaged.