Upper Valley family business pitches in to make protective masks

QUECHEE, Vt. (WCAX) Hospitals are putting out a call for personal protective equipment like surgical masks, and people across the region are stepping up to the plate. That includes a clothing company in the Upper Valley where giving back is a family affair.

Sounds of machines can still be heard inside the Fat Hat Clothing Company in Quechee, where they normally make women's wear. Kate and Ty Christensen are hard at work cutting elastic, a little break from the new normal of online learning.

"I sometimes love school, I sometimes hate it," said Kate, age 10.

"It's hard to explain, because whenever I'm in school, I'm like, oh, I don't want to be here," added Ty, age 12.

Down in the basement, the kids' grandmother is cutting cloth, and the sewing machines are piecing it all together.

"There are people everywhere who are doing this. This has just become a war effort. I hate to use the term, but a war effort," said the company's Joan Ecker.

The family is making masks for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Hospital officials recently put out a call for vital equipment and they say the response is outstanding. That includes people who are good with their hands.

"There are 6x9 squares for the adults with a 7-inch elastic and three pleats on the side," Ecker said.

It's a pattern put out by the medical center. The masks will be used by low-risk, non-medical personnel, which frees up the professional surgical gear for those on the front lines of the pandemic. This family expects to make about 50 masks a day.

"Everybody is terrified and I think when you are scared about anything the best thing to do is get to work, so everybody is doing their part," Ecker said.

And that includes Kate and Ty, who admit they do miss school, but are happy to be making the most of their time.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: You are giving back, you feel good?
Kate Christensen: Why? I just like helping the community.
Ty Christensen: Yeah, I like giving back to the community.

As for the Fat Hat clothing, the retail portion of the store is closed to the public, but they are still doing business online.