A Latrobe plastics manufacturer recently donated 100 plastic face shields to City of Latrobe first responders and Bethlen Communities, as the coronavirus pandemic spawned a need for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Universal Plastics, located at the Westmoreland Airpark in Unity Township, donated 75 face shields to Bethlen Communities in Ligonier, and 25 to Latrobe first responders.

The company is headquartered in Holyoke, Mass., where it produces about 1,000 face shields per day. Universal Plastics pivoted its production to PPE in mid-March as the pandemic ramped up.

The shields — which were distributed to Latrobe from the Holyoke plant — are made of plastic and include an adjustable strap to secure the shield, and a plastic band that prevents fogging.

“We are very thankful to have this donation here for the city,” Latrobe City Manager Michael Gray said.

The company’s Latrobe plant manufactures medical parts, and was deemed an essential business when many businesses statewide were ordered to temporarily close in March.

“We specialize in medical,” Nicole Stupka, marketing business analyst, said. “We wanted to utilize that experience for the better.”

The face shields are reusable and made from recycled material, Stupka says.

“We are in plastics, so we have the material here,” Stupka said. “It was something that was very easy to pivot in making.”

Beth Green works at Bethlen Communities, and her husband William Green is a quality control manager at Universal Plastics-Latrobe.

The former thanked Universal Plastics for their donation.

“Bethlen Communities is very thankful and appreciative,” she said. “The face shields will help keep the residents of Bethlen Home and Ligonier Gardens, our families that we visit with our home health and hospice, and staff safe.”

In a press release, Universal Plastics states that their goal is: “To give back to their local communities and protect those around them. That starts with their employees. Each employee was told to take one mask for themselves and additional masks for family members that work on the front lines.”

The company was founded by Jay and Pia Kumar eight years ago. They acquired the 150,000-square-foot Middlefield plant, formerly known as Sajar Plastics, in 2017.

“Our goal for manufacturing the face shields was to utilize our medical expertise for the good during this difficult time,” said Pia Kumar, co-owner and chief strategy officer. “We asked, what can we do? As a family-owned business, we value family, so what better way to support our employees and local communities than by providing them essential PPE.”

Universal Plastics-Latrobe is a custom extrusion blow molder which manufactures for medical, waste management, automotive, safety equipment, lawn and garden, recreational equipment and large capacity potable water bottles.

The Latrobe plant has about 100 employees, according to Stupka.

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