LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A company that would normally be sending products to Sea World or Universal Studios and retail stores is making face coverings “by the truckload” and giving back to nonprofits.
Stephen Joseph Companies has operated in Lubbock for 39 years. The founder tells KCBD that COVID-19 has been its biggest challenge.
“We started feeling the effects almost immediately when customers were canceling their orders or postponing their orders,” Alix Buckley said. “We had a serious dilemma on our hands. We decided that we would stick together as a team. We would get creative, kind of get back to our roots and get really scrappy and figure out how we were going to keep our folks working and what we could do also to help the community.”
The company pivoted to making face masks and producing t-shirts that could be used for fundraising purposes.
“With our facial coverings, we knew that we could do it in a way where we could just sell it for the costs of keeping our team working,” Marketing Director Angela Jacobson said. “Beyond that, we identified a few opportunities immediately. People needed to be fed. So, our first thought was we could produce t-shirts at our cost and then turn around and sell them and donate half of that cost that customers are paying back to the South Plains Food Bank. Now, we’ve moved on to the Lubbock Meals on Wheels as well so that we can help share that wealth.”
T-shirts have also helped pay local furloughed pre-k educators and used to raise funds for other local businesses. Even the scraps from face masks have helped support the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
“It was going to go to landfill and that kind of broke my heart,” Georgia Benton said. “I called South Plains Wildlife Rehab, Gail Barnes who is the director, to see if she could use the leftover materials. She wanted them for nesting and bedding for all their animals. It’s worked out real well. It’s kind of given a third life, if you will, to all these things that may have not been put to use otherwise. That’s part of the community engagement we’ve focused on outside of trying to come up with a product that’s needed right now.”
Barnes tells KCBD the assistance couldn’t come at a better time when the cost of operating the facility is increasing.
“That’s a big plus right now, especially with our costs that have gone up due to the virus and us not being able to get some of the supplies that we need,” Barnes said. “We need really need gloves and we need Clorox wipes, if anybody could donate. Every time we try to go to Sam’s or Costco, they’re out. They’re out at the stores and we don’t have a [business] status that can be able to go in and buy these items or order them from Amazon. So, I’m relying on the public to donate them to us.”
Buckley said the company’s continued operations has kept all of its employees at work and paid. The chance to assist the community is an added bonus.
“It has been something that is extremely overwhelming for me,” Buckley said. “I’m just extremely proud of, of my team and their creativity and their spirit of generosity.”