The COVID-19 pandemic has led many businesses to change their business model or products to help their fellow Montanans.
Red Ants Pants in White Sulphur Springs delivered its first shipment of medical gowns this week to its local critical access hospital, Mountainview Medical Center.
In late March, the workwear for women company began receiving requests to pivot manufacturing efforts toward providing cloth face coverings and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers in rural communities.
Collaborating with Bearpaw Outfitters Manufacturing in Billings, Red Ants Pants is now prioritizing PPE for rural health care facilities from Hamilton to Plains.
“This is classic Montana,” said Sarah Calhoun, owner of Red Ants Pants. “We’re all pretty good at being neighbors here and that’s just what we’re doing on a business scale really. When we have the equipment and the connections and the resources to be able to pitch in, that’s just what we’re all honored to be able to do. “
Rural hospitals often operate on tight budgets and don’t always have the same supply chains or buying power larger organizations do.
“Critical access hospitals in our rural communities operate on the brink during normal times, so the ability to rapidly turn to our neighbors to keep things running during the COVID-19 pandemic is a great testament to the power of small-town collaboration,”said Mountainview Medical Center CEO Rob Brandt. “As personal protective equipment such as medical gowns and face coverings are in short supply worldwide, we’re grateful that our neighbor on Main Street, Red Ants Pants, was willing to free up capacity and resources to help make the critical gear we need to take care of our hometown.”
The Red Ants Pants Foundation had to cancel its yearly music festival this summer due to COVID-19.
Organizers are currently investigating other ways they can help rural communities across Montana with smaller events, when it’s safe to do so.
Calhoun will be traveling the sate in June to gain a better understanding of how rural Montana has been impacted by COVID-19.
“I’m going to pack up my dog and do a ‘tailgate tour’ so we can all stay distanced,” said Calhoun. “I’m going to visit with some of our grant partners and other community leaders across the state and just try to understand a general needs assessment of how this has affected our small communities, and what we can do to make some innovative programming to figure out how to help.”