Although Rovner Products’ production department had been idle since the end of March due to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 state mandate closing all non-essential businesses, in late April some of the company’s manufacturing equipment was redeployed.
“In March, stories of desperate medical workers were all over the news, and we were horrified. We realized we could use some of our manufacturing capabilities to help alleviate the dangerous shortage of PPE,” says Rovner President George Reeder. Rover Products makes clarinet and saxophone ligatures and woodwind accessories. Once the production methodology was determined, he and his wife, Rovner co-owner Lynn Reeder, immediately began searching the internet for materials they could use to build a prototype of a vinyl face shield. “To our surprise and frustration, raw goods were extremely difficult to find because everybody was scrambling to make things out of whatever they could get,” says Lynn. “So we had to get creative.”
Collaborating with Other Businesses
At her suggestion, they reached out to an upholsterer specializing in marine applications, who graciously agreed to supply the vinyl and double-stick tape they needed at his cost. After much trial and error (mostly error) prototyping with whatever materials they had on hand, George discovered that materials typically used for shipping and packing could be used to finish the design.
“People have come up with all kinds of ideas for quick, homemade designs that may be basically functional but are not always attractive. We wanted our shields to be durable, reusable, and to look professional,” says George. “We wanted the recipients to feel supported, and to feel the love and gratitude we’re sending along with each face shield.” A local printer donated the thank you note that is attached to each.
Rovner employees helped create the parts, and the company is relying on additional eager-to-help volunteers to assemble the 3,000 face shields they have begun to donate to their community. “This is temporary for us,” says Lynn. “We don’t want it to be a revenue stream, but a true reflection of the message we see all around us…that we’re all in this together.”
Giving Help Where It’s Needed
Donations began last week and Rovner Products has already supplied or promised shields to doctor’s offices, dentists, an eye care provider, physical therapists, a speech pathologist, nursing homes and an organization that works with veterans … even a local sandwich shop.
“I don’t think we’ll run out of places to donate in Maryland, but if we do, we’re happy to go farther afield to help wherever it is needed,” says George. With Maryland’s work restrictions for manufacturing now lifted, the Rovner Products facility is again up and running and, George adds, “We’re ready to get back to doing what they do best: making ligatures.”