Janel’s Industries donates, sells PPE items

DOWAGIAC — When the COVID-19 pandemic began, it became quickly apparent to Janel’s Industries’ Vice President Chad Perrin how scarce hand sanitizer would become.

After finding a company that could provide the liquid disinfectant, Perrin purchased a 270-gallon tote of hand sanitizer to keep his employees safe as they continued their essential work.

Janel’s Industries, located within the Dowagiac Industrial Park, normally only sells products to the military. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business model. Now, with an abundance of hand sanitizer and donations to local frontline workers completed, Perrin’s next mission is to make hand sanitizer accessible to the general public.

Janel’s Industries, which remains open for its production in the defense industry, is also selling hand sanitizer and face masks.

Before purchasing the 270-gallon tote, Perrin did not expect to run into an additional challenge.

“We had no idea at the time that one of the biggest challenges with trying to facilitate supplying it to places that might need it would be that there is a nationwide shortage of plastic bottles to put it in,” Perrin said. “They are extremely hard to find.”

Perrin said the company has managed to find some after stopping at dollar stores, hardware stores and tractor supply stores. He has also ordered some empty gallon and half gallon jugs online.

Shifting to donating and supplying hand sanitizer and PPE is not the only change that COVID-19 brought to Janel’s Industries — staffing changes were also implemented.

“Basically, when this whole coronavirus thing started out, and I don’t think anybody knew it was going to last this long,” he said. “They were talking about the 15 days of social distancing, and of course, our company tried to comply. We went to split schedules with fewer staff members every other day with telework on the in-between days.”

The hand sanitizer’s primary role was to keep Janel’s employees safe during the pandemic as they completed essential work.

“We are using a lot of the hand sanitizer too in our cleaning and doing our extra due diligence to make sure our employees don’t get sick,” Perrin said. “We’ve placed a lot of it around the building and are also using it to clean surfaces that can be cleaned.”

With plenty of hand sanitizer leftover, Perrin has made phone calls into the Cass County Sheriff’s Office to check on its supply. Another Janel’s employee has reached out to Ascension Borgess Lee Hospital and asked if they needed donations.

Perrin, a native of Goshen, Indiana, also donated some of the hand sanitizer supply to the Goshen fire and police departments.

In addition to the hand sanitizer, Janel’s Industries is also selling masks made by a company in Janel’s Industries’ network of connections.  The company was not considered essential but had the ability to help make the PPE items.

“I read a report that the company has now made over 30,000,” Perrin said of the mask efforts. “We are also helping to keep people employed.”

Perrin said the first week he announced Janel’s was selling the PPE, several people stopped by. He said Janel’s Industries still has lots of hand sanitizer left and people should call in advance if interested in purchasing so that social distancing protocols can still be used for picking up the PPE.

“It’s not as busy as it was in the first week,” he said. “It wasn’t a prerequisite that I would be able to sell it because we needed it for our company. So, beyond what we are using for our company, if I can help out and get people something that is hard to get right now, I am all for it.”

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