Annemarie Furey is the owner of Product Think Tank. “I started Product Think Tank as a way to apply the mind set of farm-to-table to apparel.” When COVID-19 hit the United States, Furey started making masks for her community. “After donating 1,750 (combined) to hospitals, first responders, essential workers, we had so many people saying ‘Annemarie, we want to buy your masks,” Furey said.
Furey had some extra fabric around and found that some of the patterns inspired her. “It literally just came (to me) from looking at the prints.” Furey said that a cloth print she had reminded her of the Vermont Adaptive logo. When she found it, she said “Gees, this looks like Vermont Adaptive!” This led Furey to create, in her own words: “A series of limited edition, organic cotton-wired masks that reflect the organizations that they’re supporting.” This was the start of Furey’s Masker-Aid program. The program was launched on November 6 with an announcement on Instagram.
The Masker-Aid program allows customers to buy a mask and contribute to one of three organizations: Vermont Adaptive, Free Wheel’n, and FourWands Wildlife Rehabilitation. Furey added $2.50 to the original price of the masks and matches that contribution of $2.50 for each mask sold. People can order online at https://www.producttt.com/face-masks and have their masks delivered, or choose curbside pick-up.
Furey thinks that these masks make great gifts. “I wanted to end the year, circling back and having the masks be a real community project again. We got into making masks to support the local community and I thought for this holiday season, it made a ton of sense to do something that benefited the local community,” she stated.
Furey thought that the Masker-Aid was also a great way to keep these organizations in people's minds. Vermont Adaptive for example is an organization that provides youths and adults with disabilities equipment for activities they’d like to do. Vermont Adaptive is sometimes more affiliated with winter sports in The Valley because the organization has a location at Mt. Ellen.
Free Wheel’n is an organization that provides senior citizens with transportation, as well as others in The Valley who need it. FourWands Wildlife Rehabilitation, located in Barre, Vermont, is a rehabilitation center for small mammals. They specialize in the care of the five native squirrel species of Vermont. “They’re amazing,” Furey said.
For a while, Furey was doing the majority of the work. Now, she has people to help do the jobs needed to make a mask. She has one person who cuts the elastics to go around the ears, and one person who just does the serging, connecting the two pieces of fabric with a type of stitch. All the masks are washed and preshrunk. Because the fabric is 100% cotton it wrinkles when it dries, and must be ironed. Furey says all this is hard work, but that it’s worth it. These masks are limited because the fabric used is no longer available.