In April, Wade Trefethen bought a laser printer for his event decor business. He ended up making thousands of Ear Savers for people wearing masks on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wade, owner of I DO Event Decals and a KettleSpace Member, joined the #Save2MillionEars initiative led by Glowforge, maker of his new laser printer, within days of the machine’s arrival at his Washington Heights home.
So far, Wade has produced 3,000 Ear Savers, which “take pressure and friction off the ears, making all masks more comfortable,” according to the Glowforge website. He donates his time and covers the costs of materials and shipping.
And he figures he can make another 5,000.
“It’s the least I can do,” Wade said. “If you need them, you get them.”
Glowforge has matched Wade with hospitals and assisted-living facilities in the New York area that need Ear Savers. He also has reached out to nurse friends in New York and Los Angeles, where he lived until 2012.
The Glowforge website allows essential workers to request Ear Savers and volunteers to sign up to help manufacture them.
Wade said he has customized some Ear Savers with such phrases as “COVID Warrior” and “Dream Team.” He can produce a sheet of 77 Ear Savers at a time.
Making these aids “wasn’t why I bought the machine, but I knew the second I got it I’d be using it for that,” Wade said.
His original plan was to use the laser printer to make promotional items like coasters and acrylic stirrers while weddings and other gatherings are on hold.
“When events stopped, business stopped,” said Wade, whose company designs and prints vinyl decals for venue spaces. “I’d been trying to think of how to pivot.”
His company now offers green screens for home videoconferencing and signage for businesses that need social distancing decals.
Wade said he has appreciated the way KettleSpace has changed course in recent months. A Member since March 2019, he mostly visited Distilled when KettleSpace locations were open, since a lot of his work took place in Tribeca. These days, he’s glad to see the community being built online.
“I posted about needing help with marketing and had a couple of people reach out to me almost immediately,” he said. “That’s valuable.”
About the Author
Sarah Latson is a freelance writer and editor who teaches journalism in New Jersey.