Seeking your advice on masks + 4 things I’ve found helpful

My family and I are finally starting to figure out our mask protocols. One basket has the clean masks, another one has the dirty ones. We wash the dirty ones a couple times per week. Each of us has our preferred mask for when we’re going to be talking to somebody. My wife has to attend worship services with lots of other people, so she wears a KN-95, which is safer, but more expensive and less helpful if you’re having to talk a lot.

 
What have you been learning about your mask preferences? 
I ask sincerely because the core of our work at the Community Purchasing Alliance Co-op is to learn as much as we can from folks we trust and respect, and then try to synthesize and distill it for others.

4 things I’ve found helpful or just learned: 

  1. What makes for an effective non-medical mask?  A 3-pager from Stop the Spread that describes the different dimensions you may want to be thinking about when buying and using cloth masks.
  2. Clear masks can help convey so much more than standard masks obscure. When we met my son’s new teacher this week, he was wearing a clear mask and it made it so much easier to read his facial expressions.
  3. Some masks significantly muffle/mute your voice. Others hardly do. My daughter had been given this really pretty mask that she loved the look of, but when talking to her new teacher yesterday, we all realized how much it muffled her voice, which made us sad because she’s so soft spoken anyway.
  4. There’s so much I still don’t know & am learning. Just these two anecdotes have reminded me how much I still don’t know about how to help my organization and my family stay safe while practically trying to figure out how to go about our work and our lives, given our new circumstances.
I share this in an effort to sincerely share what I’ve been learning.

Are there any recent insights you’ve gleaned that you can share with me that might be helpful to others in similar situations to you?

We work with church and synagogue leaders, school and college administrators, and many other community leaders.
The more you share with me, the more we can help share with others and help aggregate and build market intelligence, so that we all can be more thoughtful as we navigate this unchartered territory together.
If you’re looking to buy masks, wipes, plexiglass, signage, hand sanitizer or other PPE, we’ve been facilitating group bulk purchases these past few months and have learned a lot on how to make the process easy and help you source from Black-owned business, worker-owned co-ops, and suppliers that are offering good products at affordable prices.
My colleague Juan Francisco Hidalgo has been leading up these efforts and has been heroic in how many folks he’s given personalized consultations to — to help them figure out what makes the most sense for them, given that many Chlorox wipes and other products are still expected to be backlogged for a long time.
He’s happy to talk to you (email him at juan@cpa.coop), if you need help, especially if you’re going to submit a meaningfully sized order as part of our bulk PPE co-op purchase — with the deadline of tomorrow, Friday. August 21
That said, we’re not perfect. We’re not experts, we’re just trying to help.
This might be our last co-op PPE bulk purchase.
Submit your order by tomorrow, Friday, August 21, 2020 if there are products on the list that might be helpful.
My personal favorite, and the mask I wear the most often, is made by Carolina Textile District.  (It’s the first item on the left in the 3rd-to-last row on our e-commerce website.)
Carolina Textile District is a group of small NC textile manufacturers that have banned together and saved 60 jobs in the process, thanks in part to more than 45,000 masks CPA Co-op members and partners have sourced from them. You can read their story on their website here and also see the other ethical essentials their Latinx worker-owned coop makes in their Collection line up.
Here’s a picture of me wearing their “Pedestrian Mask”:
IMG_8493
Can you tell I’m trying to smile for you?
It’s the most breathable, easy-to-talk through mask, while being made from an antimicrobial BioSmart Fabric (also used to make scrubs) made by Miliken in South Carolina. It’s a bit of a premium product, but you know you’re sourcing from domestic manufacturers who’ve been paying living wages — and been able to keep their jobs because of our work together.
It truly is a success story that I’m really proud of.
Or skip straight to the ecommerce platform, and add your order to the hundreds of others by buying together to get the group volume discounts.
And, if you’re able, I’m genuinely interested to learn what you’re learning about masks — so don’t hesitate to just respond with a quick couple insights that have emerged from your past couple months of buying, wearing, and figuring out what makes the most sense for your organization and your family.

Have you been thinking about masks?

If you’ve been thinking about how to buy masks, disinfectant supplies, PPE…
Perhaps our co-op effort to find suppliers that can deliver may be of help…

 

  1. Curious how others are thinking through re-opening and estimating PPE supply needs?
  2. Curious what co-op pricing looks like for masks?   Or “no contact” thermometers? (coop price: $50… vs $85)
  3. Worried about making sure you get what you need on time?
  4. Interested in buying from a worker-owned coop?     A local NC person-of-color-owned manufacturer?
If one of these 4 questions resonates with you, read on…
 
Our Process 
  1. Complete this interest form  (takes 2 minutes — simply estimate what you think you might need)
  2. Review initial Pricing, Terms, potential Suppliers — Q&A on May 26 at 9am ET & Update Call on June 2 at 10am
  3. Make your order with pre-negotiated terms, pricing & more — June 3-10
Deadline to Submit 2-min Interest Form: Sunday, May 24, 2020 

 

What do folks say about working with CPA? 
 
“The process was exceptionally transparent and well-run. Thank you for the hard work and dedication to providing an optimum result for everyone.”
Bill Casson, Building & Grounds Team Chair, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church-Bethesda
 
“Pricing for some items was 30-40% lower with CPA.”
~DC School Administrator who purchased $50,000 of masks and thermometers with CPA last week
Want to stay in the loop? 
Just fill out the 2-min interest form (ideally before Sunday) and we’ll keep you posted.
Feel free to share this with others & spread the word far and wide: https://bit.ly/coop4ppe
We’ll be in touch with more soon.
How do I estimate how much I might need? 
Here is a profile of a school we worked with & how they thought about estimating their needs.

Who are our suppliers? 

  • We’ve been in conversations with 23 suppliers over the past 8 weeks and my colleague Juan Francisco Hidalgo is in the process of pre-qualifying more. We plan to release an RFP and so we expect to have a wide range of options.
  • We’ve executed a few transactions with 5 primary companies that we’ve found to be very reliable and so we’ll likely have a variety of options to suit different needs.
  • One of our favorite suppliers is Carolina Textile District PPE — Take 10 seconds to check out their website right now.  – “In response to COVID-19, a consortium of 60 American manufacturers, The Carolina Textile District has come together to help produce medical supplies in response to a request from local healthcare providers.”
  • Read this story about how the group of US manufacturers (including worker-owned co-op — Opportunity Threads) came together in response to the pandemic: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/masks-mutual-aid-and-our-broken-supply-chains-a-north-carolina-story/

Who is CPA?

Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) is a social-purpose cooperative that leverages the buying power of community institutions to help lower operating costs, while also making investments in sustainability, worker equity, and community organizing. As a cooperative, CPA is wholly owned by its members, creating a business that serves their needs first. Through aggregation and group procurement of services, CPA helps its members save money and get better service, while also holding vendors to high standards in terms of environmental and worker practices.

In 2019 CPA worked with over 120 organizations across 10 product/services areas to facilitate $17 million in purchasing. CPA offers expertise and competitive group procurement for services including energy (electricity and gas supply), waste pick-up, HVAC maintenance, solar development, janitorial, security, copier, and landscaping.

Check out CPA’s latest videos, including this member testimonial.