RINCON — The need is great but the time left to fill it is not.
Recent Effingham County High School graduate Mathiew Tackitt wants to make as many masks as he can before he heads to Georgia Tech to continue his education. He and his friend Chris Larson, a former Effingham County classmate set to leave soon for Columbus State University, are determined to help people protect themselves from COVID-19.
“One weekend ago, we gave away like 164 masks,” Tackitt said.
Tackitt’s focused his attention locally at first but it has greatly expanded.
“Actually, we are reaching across the nation,” he said. “We have gotten many requests from California, New York, Las Vegas, Texas. We have been running Facebook ads and Instagram ads constantly to try to get people to see who we are.”
Named Medical PP3D, Tackitt’s project started in April when, using 3-D printers, he began making plastic mask straps for local health care professionals. He has given more than 2,500 of the straps — designed to ease tension on the ears of mask wearers — to essential medical workers in Effingham County.
Eventually, he and Larson started making full masks that they give away. them about $1 to construct a mask. They have made several thousand straps and more than 500 them.
“We were primarily funded through donations at the very start and, in fact, that is still our primary form of revenue,” Tackitt said, “but we’ve also opened up an online apparel shop. We get a little bit of revenue in from there but it hasn’t really hit as many people as we’d hoped.”
Tackitt used GoFundMe to obtain his initial donations. Then, stationed under a tent in the parking lot, he started seeking financial support at Walmart each Saturday.
“Our goal is to help the community because a lot of people who need help don’t have access to this stuff,” Larson said. “We want to be there to provide it for them.”
Demand for masks has skyrocketed in recent days as the rate of COVID-19 infections has increased locally and nationally. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson recently signed an executive order requiring people to don them in public spaces.
It takes two and a half hours for a printer to make nine straps. Tackitt has seven printers in his bedroom, giving him the capability of making 500 masks a day.
Medical PP3D also makes a device that will open doors and punch elevator buttons.
“We are open to the public and businesses now,” said Tackitt, whose dining room table was covered with boxes of his products set for delivery at no cost to their recipients.
The Aug. 5 start of school in Effingham County will create an additional need for masks, Tackitt added.
“That’s the thing,” he said. “We make a one-size mask but with the straps you can adjust it to children’s heads and such.”
Larson, who deferred the sewing to Tackitt, described the arduous mask-making process.
“I’ll cut it up and set the straps,” he said. “(Tackitt) will then sew the mask together with the straps on it and we will go ahead and pleat it. There are a lot of different patterns that we have.”
The duo’s patterns feature farm scenes, Independence Day and horses.
“We’ve gone through plenty of designs,” Tackitt said.
Tackitt and Larson have considered making masks that include the logos of Effingham County and South Effingham high schools.
“That’s one of the ideas that we had,” Tackitt said. “We wanted to maybe brand some of the things but we don’t have that much help.”
Tackitt and Larson need assistance because the time they can spend making masks is dwindling. Both will leave for college in a few weeks. Their universities prohibit keeping 3-D printers in their dorms because of the heat they generate.
“We’re worried that after I leave it is all going to dissolve,” Tackitt said. “If we had more help, perhaps we could continue it throughout the school year and keep it going.
“These printers are going to have to stay here and what we want to do is give them back to the community. We were thinking about giving them to Effingham College & Career Academy or the local library just so that they are open to the community.”
“This would be a great resource for other schools to use, too,” Larson added
To volunteer or donate money to non-profit Medical PP3D, contact it at email@example.com or www.medicalpp3d.com, a webpage Tackitt designed himself. It can also be reached via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I really want to see this thing continue but I’m not going to be able to do it myself,” Tackitt said.
“A bunch of people around here are selling for them for like $10,” Tackitt said. “That is a steep price.”
Tackitt and Larson said it costs