A teacher in New Jersey received a limited edition car from Mazda after making thousands of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic.
When Jason Erdreich, 26, heard the news about front line workers scrambling for PPEs during the start of the pandemic, he knew he had to step up and do something.
So, he turned his home into a makeshift PPE factory. Using multiple 3D printers, he made thousands of face masks, face shields, and respirators around the clock.
“I mean I had to,” the middle school shop teacher told CNN. “I had the resources to help, I was able to help, I couldn’t not help others that were doing so much to help us. Front line workers were, and are, doing so much to care for us, someone needs to make sure they are taken care of too. I’m glad I was able to contribute to that.”
Because of his heroic efforts, Mazda has chosen Erdreich as one of the 50 recipients of their Mazda MX-5 Miata 100th Anniversary Special Edition.
The company rewards deserving recipients with the limited edition car for their “selfless acts, creative thinking, and contributions to community,” according to a press release.
Erdreich teaches woodworking, manufacturing, and robotics at Madison Junior School in Madison, New Jersey. His wife, Cara Erdreich, nominated him for the award. She saw how hard her husband worked, borrowing 15 3D printers from his school, setting up the machines in their living room, and printing masks all day and night.
“I nominated you to be a Mazda hero because you were compassionate and generous in a time when people were afraid,” Cara said in a video released by Mazda USA showing the moment Erdreich was presented with his limited edition car.
To gather more help, Erdreich shared his knowledge with his co-teachers and students. Together, they ended up printing over 12,000 pieces of PPE that benefited hospitals, nursing homes, and local healthcare workers.
The company cited “omotenashi”—the Japanese culture of putting others’ needs first—as the driving force behind the launching of the Mazda Heroes program.
Aside from Erdreich, the initial awardees include an ICU nurse from Texas and a schoolteacher from Mississippi. The rest of the winners will be announced throughout December.
“I was speechless, I mean I never could have envisioned something like this happening to me, let alone for something I did,” Erdreich said. “I’m not really one for the spotlight, but this has been a truly incredible experience.
“I feel very fortunate, and I am endlessly appreciative to my colleagues, students, administrators, community members, and my wife that really helped make all of the PPE in the thick of the pandemic, and even more so for the frontline workers we were making the PPE for,” he continued.
With the threat of a second wave of the virus looming over, Erdreich and his team are still producing PPE. When schools reopened in September, the teacher made 750 face shields and ear guards for every school employee.
Lessons are now being done online and in-person, and teachers are making it a point to redesign the content so it can be taught effectively in this new learning model.
“We are making the best of a challenging situation,” he told TAPintoMadison. “Through a hybrid model, students are able to work with their teachers in person and virtually while keeping our community safe through distancing measures.”
As for his new ride, Erdreich has no plans of going on a road trip anytime soon. For him, it’s still about giving back to the community and supporting those in need, especially now that the holidays are drawing closer.
“As an educator, I am always looking to improve and assist the lives of my students, their families, and my family,” he said.
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