Doing Their Part
Bednark also expresses an outlook for where this turn in history might lead us. He has clearly built a successful company with a client list to be envied, including significant installations at late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon’s home that has become a topic of discussion as Americans fill their time with lots of television viewing. “We didn’t build his ‘slide that barn’,” Bednark says, referring to Fallon’s amusement park-worthy interior slide he and his family enjoy on a regular basis. “But a lot of what is in that space are designs we have created, fabricated and installed.” Bednark, who cites events as a significant portion of his business, says that prior to the outbreak, “My staff was used to delivering 12 projects a week. Now, we aren’t delivering any projects, every week. This is a once in a lifetime thing. The whole world is virtually on pause. It is definitely a time for introspection—a time to change and pivot or go do something completely different that you have never done. This is the one chance I think I will have in my lifetime where I can evaluate what I have done for the past few decades and see if there is something else I want to consider. This business may never come back, so we have been having really thoughtful discussions with all of our employees. None of us ever thought we would find ourselves here, but I will say that both our clients and our employees are open to seeing where this all leads and figuring out what is missing and needed. Hopefully we can offer a productive solution.”
A little-known organization on the Cape known as Cape Cod Makers also tapped their collective ingenuity and cranked out face shields for local healthcare professionals. Russ Laffin, a new member of Cape Cod Makers, says he stumbled upon the organization at the end of 2019 when he considered creating a similar type of group and discovered there was one virtually in his backyard. The group has what is termed as a “makerspace” in the Home Economics classroom of the former Harwich Middle School that has recently been converted to the home for the Harwich Cultural Center. “They were the perfect organization to take advantage of the Home Economics room,” says Erica Strzepek, Executive Director of the Harwich Cultural Center who functions as the landlord for a variety of artisans and crafters that make up the space of the re-appointed building. Laffin, a self-described hobbyist/woodworker agrees and says he feels fortunate to have discovered the group as well as the space where like-minded innovators can share access to ideas as well as tools.
Laffin says that early on, as the Cape’s healthcare professionals were implementing plans to deal with responding to a surge of COVID-19 cases, a Cape Cod Healthcare employee reached out to one of Cape Cod Makers’ members, Mike Looney, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program) teacher in the Mashpee School System, to see if the makers could figure out a way to supplement the face shield supply for the hospitals. “There were already discussions among the members that there must be ways we can use the knowledge and resources of the group and our amazing space to contribute in some way, so the specific request gave the leaders of the organization something to act on,” Laffin recalls.
Rob Wilson, a retired mechanical engineer who lives in Marstons Mills, is an officer within the organization. According to Laffin, Wilson said that there were lots of designs for face shields circulating within the online 3D printer community. A design from Budmen Industries was adopted and modified to incorporate a simple 3-hole punch that allowed healthcare workers to easily swap and replace new shields themselves. Cape Cod Healthcare’s original request was for 10,000 shields; a number Laffin describes as “totally unreachable,” since the Cape Cod Makers had one 3D printer and it could only produce eight shields a day. Wilson amended the design by cutting it in half to create two pieces that could be achieved by smaller printers that some people actually have in their homes.
A call went out for anyone who had access to a 3D printer within the Cape community to consider volunteering for the effort. A network of over 70 individuals and groups responded, most not members of Cape Cod Makers, and a cottage industry intent on making a contribution was born on this sandy peninsula. Cape Cod Healthcare was able to source half of their original need through traditional channels and the 3D printers across the Cape met their new goal of 5,000 in a matter of a few weeks, and ultimately created a total of 7,500 which allowed the group to pivot and provide the much needed equipment to local nursing homes. Laffin says that between local businesses like Mid-Cape Home Centers and the Baskin family who own a variety of Ace Hardware stores across the Cape, both of which provided miles of weather stripping used for the masks, and a Go Fund Me page that collected donations to reimburse the 3D printing community for materials, it was truly a community effort. The makers are now focused on churning out mask clips for KN-95 facemasks. As for the future, anyone’s guess is good, as Laffin says, “Looking back, a lot of it happened so quickly, but that is what is special about this group, we collaborate and execute. Staying home is critical, but it isn’t active participation, and that is hard for some people. This gave our members a sense of agency.”
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