Local business owner Todd Bass at Fastsigns Texoma in Sherman is working to fill a need in Texoma.

The longtime sign maker looked at the current COVID-19 situation and then looked at his capabilities locally. And, Bass took it upon himself to turn his small sign business into a factory for making medical face shields.

“We have stopped all other business; this is what we are doing now,” said Bass from his office. “Everything we do is for COVID-19 including the face shields.”

Most of his staff of seven employees works on the assembly line for the shields. The work began the first of April; and Bass has orders for 400 shields to be filled including locations in Bonham and Sherman.

“We have orders from private hospitals in the area; and others that are interested,” said Bass. “It is a good feeling knowing we can help by getting equipment to the front lines of this pandemic here locally.”

The work that Fastsigns is doing has not gone unnoticed locally.

“I think it’s noble and selfless; and greatly appreciated in this time of crisis,” said Lauren Kirby, a local nurse practitioner with Wilson N. Jones Wellness Care. “We appreciate their efforts in doing their part to help stop the spread of this virus.”

When the epidemic started in earnest in the United States, Bass noticed that companies across the country were attempting to do their part. This is what gave him that first kernel of a seed of an idea.

“There’s been a lot of companies converting equipment over to make ventilators and PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) to help with the effort to combat this virus,” explained Bass. “We already have some of the materials needed for face shields, so it seemed like right thing to do.”

According to Bass, it took about a week of design ideas to get where they wanted to be; and then a couple of days to get the work area ready to go. Full fledged production began April 3.

“Before we could mass produce them, we worked on some prototypes; it took a couple of days,” said Bass. “We tried a lot of different concepts to get to the one that worked for us.”

Bass noted that Fastsigns – each are owned as franchises – across the country have been attempting to do similar work. Many have shared files – including Bass – to help other locations make a contribution to the effort of outfitting medical personnel.

“The ones (designs) I saw early on, I didn’t like. They would be too expensive and labor intensive,” said Bass. “I finally just decided to design one myself.”

Bass finalized his work on Wednesday last week and began making that first face shield.

“I finally got a design that met all the criteria,” smiled Bass. “After we made the first one, it fit perfectly.”

Bass is proud of what he and his team have done. He noted that you hear in the news about large corporations such as GM or Ford being able to retool and make an impact, but you don’t hear about many small businesses that do the same.

“It feels really good to help; it’s heart-warming,” he added. “When I put the first one (face shield) on, we knew we could actually help so many in this fight. We want to help those doctors and nurses on the front lines.”

Sherman city officials are pleased with the ingenuity of local companies including the mayor.

“I think it’s fantastic that local companies use their resources and efforts for a needed item right here in our community,” said David Plyler, Sherman mayor. “We have a strong community and if there is anything we need, then someone always steps up. That’s what we do; we help each other out. It’s great to see people volunteer their time, resources and ideas for the benefit of others.”

As for the process, the sign making equipment at Fastsigns is up to the task for making face shields, according to Bass. He did have to order special ‘bits’ for one machine. After trial and error on the production process, Bass added that the tempo is a lot faster than at first.

“We started out only being able to do six (shields) at a time, but now we can do 18 of them,” he noted. “It takes less than 20 minutes to put one together including the plastic component.”

Bass said the final step in the process is to sanitize each unit (shield). It is sprayed so no cross contamination will occur from his location to the front lines of the medical field in this pandemic.

“We even had some doctors come over to inspect what we had come up with,” said Bass. “They loved the shields. They agreed it would work.”

Members of the local Fastsigns team are happy with the effort they are making in this project.

“I love being part of this work. I would rather be here helping do something to help out with this crisis,” said Kayla Salvatori who has been at Fastsigns for two years. “I think it is remarkable that we are able to take some of the resources we already have and do something that will benefit so many.”

Bass has noticed how the Fastsigns locations have worked together in this crisis in an attempt to help the medical professionals and first responders in their local areas.

“I am amazed at how we are working together so much; it’s never been done before,” said Bass. “We will share our design with others, too; we will do our part to combat this virus and help as many as we can in whatever way we can.”

For more coronavirus-related news, visit http://www.HeraldDemocrat.com/coronavirus.