Beehive Clothing, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has made hundreds of thousands of cloth face masks and surgical gowns for healthcare workers.
Six Beehive Clothing locations that usually produce sacred clothing have shifted production to making the medical-grade gowns and face masks after the project received approval in mid-April from the First Presidency, which includes President Russell M. Nelson and his two counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.
The facilities making the surgical gowns and masks are located in Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, the Philippines, Salt lake City and American Fork.
“We, as a global church, have sought ways to help and reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. One way that we can help is through offering our services from our sewing facilities,” said Peggy Cowherd, managing director of the church’s Materials Management Department, in the church statement.
About 1,000 employees spanning the six facilities are donating their time, labor and sewing capacity for several months. They are diverting from sewing sacred garments, according to Cowherd.
Beehive Clothing also donated some of its fabric for the projects.
“All of us want to help the effort,” said Stan Howell, global director of Beehive Clothing, in a press statement. “We want to help the community. We want to help the hospitals. If there is a shortage of something and we can have a small impact on that, we’re going to do everything we can.”
Beehive Clothing employees in Utah are working in three shifts to allow for social distancing.
Workers can sew a gown in less than three minutes. All are size extra-large. “It’s one size fits most,” Howell said.
Cowherd said the gowns have a unique design. “We worked in partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, along with their consultant to ensure that it was an appropriate surgical gown that would provide the protection that is needed by healthcare providers.”
As of Monday, Cowherd reports, approximately 50,000 gowns have been sewn at the two Utah plants, and about 585,000 masks have been completed at the international plants, according to the church statement.
The goal is to sew 200,000 surgical gowns and 1.5 million reusable cloth face masks by the end of June.
The church’s Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse and his second counselor Bishop W. Christopher Waddell toured the Salt Lake City facility Friday to express appreciation to employees.
Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health helped purchase the fabric to make 65,000 gowns for use by local medical personnel. Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the church, purchased the material for the remaining 135,000 gowns, which it plans to donate to organizations and areas in need.
Beehive Clothing’s four international locations were closed during the pandemic, but local governments allowed the plants to reopen to sew masks for their communities, according to the church.
The Brazil plant plans to produce 600,000 masks and cut an additional 600,000 for volunteers in local congregations to sew. Up to 300,000 masks are being sewn in Paraguay. The Philippines plant is making 400,000 masks. Workers in Mexico are planning to sew 200,000 masks during the project.