by Stephen Garner

As part of its COVID-19 response efforts, Wolverine Worldwide has donated more than 35,000 protective masks to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for use by its healthcare workers on the frontlines. In addition, the company has retrofitted its ReChaco factory in Rockford, Michigan, to produce additional face masks and other critical protective equipment that is being donated to healthcare workers and first responders. An initial delivery of more than 1,000 masks was delivered to Spectrum Health the week of April 6th.

Operated by the company’s Chaco brand, the ReChaco factory is equipped with industrial sewing machines, ample backstock of materials, and a production team with decades of professional sewing expertise. The brand plans to share their patterns, sourcing leads, and learnings with other companies and individuals looking to contribute during the pandemic.

“We at Chaco are doers. It’s not in our team’s DNA to stand by when we have the opportunity and resources to take action,” said Lisa Kondrat, director of operations for the ReChaco factory. “We want our skills and machinery to be useful in this crisis.”

The brand has also converted its ReChaco Mobile Repair Factory bus, currently based in the Pacific Northwest, to produce masks to support local efforts in Portland and Hood River, Oregon.

Merrell, the largest brand in Wolverine Worldwide’s portfolio, recently donated 1,200 pairs of shoes and boots to hospitals in Grand Rapids, including Spectrum Health and Mercy Health, as well as to the Grand Rapids Police and Fire Departments.

This footwear came from Merrell’s work and tactical lines, specifically designed for first responders in these critical roles. Additionally, the brand donated 250 neck gaiters to Mercy Health, which are being used as backup protective equipment for healthcare staff.

“Merrell could not be prouder to call West Michigan home and we want to support those on the frontlines working tirelessly to protect the health and safety of everyone in our community and beyond,” said Chris Hufnagel, president of Merrell. “We hope a new pair of shoes can be a bright spot for these brave people during these unprecedented times. Merrell thanks them for their work and service to our community.”

Further, in response to the rapidly increasing need for emergency financial aid for thousands of footwear industry families affected by the coronavirus pandemic, several of Wolverine Worldwide’s brands have partnered with the Two Ten Footwear Foundation to establish the “COVID-19 Share Your Shoes Campaign.”  This initiative was led by Hush Puppies and quickly joined by Sperry, Keds, HYTEST, and Bates Footwear. Collectively, these brands have donated more than 13,000 pairs of shoes, which will be converted into cash and distributed to footwear industry families in need.

Two Ten provides emergency financial assistance and access to counseling services and community resources to footwear employees facing difficult times. Applications for financial help at Two Ten have spiked more than 200 percent in the past two weeks and, based on the current rate, the Foundation is anticipating approximately 10 times the average number of applications will be filed between April-June.

“The safety and well-being of our employees, consumers, and communities continues to be our top priority as we navigate the global ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis,” added Blake Krueger, chairman, chief executive officer, and president at Wolverine Worldwide. “That’s why we are happy to contribute our talent and resources in service of frontline workers who are risking their own health and safety to help those in need, and to others feeling the heavy impacts of this pandemic.”