All hands on deck

A dry erase board on the wall of Pearison Incorporated displays each day’s production tally: 1,571—1,682—1,725—1,936—1,928. The small Posey County company isn’t tracking its usual orders of cheerleading and marching band uniforms, but handmade washable face masks for those on the frontline of a global pandemic.

Worker at Pearison Inc. sews a face mask

“We had a group of employees who thought we should try to run some [masks], see if we could do it,” says Jay Pearison, a 1991 USI graduate and president of Pearison Inc. “We thought it was a great idea. We want to help our neighbors in our community. That’s what’s important.”

Despite the option to stay home, around half of the company’s 80 employees are choosing to work, trading their typical roles for temporary jobs creating cotton and flannel masks for local hospitals, nursing homes, law enforcement and others in need. “People want to be here, and they want to be a part of trying to help other people,” Pearison says. “We have people from sales, office staff, the warehouse. If they don’t sew, they’re turning the masks inside out or cutting elastic. We have all hands on deck trying to get as many [masks] out as we can each day.”

Group of blue masks made at Pearison Inc.

Because of the company’s in-house equipment, eager employees not only have the will, but also a way, to make a difference. “There are just not that many plants in North America that still sew. Most of the sewing operations have moved to South America or to Asia, so we’re one of the few companies that can react quickly,” says Pearison. “We have a unique capability.”

After five days, Pearison Inc.’s dry erase board totaled 8,842 masks. With enough fabric and supplies to last at least a few more weeks, that number, like the amount of coronavirus cases in the United States, will continue to climb. And while they can’t provide masks for everyone, Jay Pearison and his team are proud to protect as many as they can. 

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