Jason Erdreich turned his own home into a factory where he used 3D printers to make thousands of masks for his community during the pandemic.
“I mean I had to,” Erdreich, 26, 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.”
Erdreich teaches woodworking, manufacturing, and robotics at Madison Junior School in Madison, New Jersey. He was nominated by his wife, Cara Erdreich, for the award, after he collected 15 3D printers from his school, hooked them up in their living room, and printed masks day and night.
But his efforts didn’t stop there. Erdreich then taught other teachers and his own students what he had learned, and together they printed more than 12,000 pieces of PPE for hospitals, nursing homes, and local frontline workers.
In its announcement, the company cited “omotenashi” — the Japanese culture of putting other’s needs first — as one of the reasons the company decided to create the Mazda Heroes program.
“This year has been full of challenges and we wanted to lean into our brand’s heritage of finding innovative ways to brighten people’s lives,” said Jeff Guyton, president of Mazda North American Operations. “We were inspired to create the Mazda Heroes program to honor all those who are working tirelessly to uplift their own communities.
Erdreich and two other honorees — an ICU nurse in Texas and a schoolteacher from Mississippi — are the initial winners with the remainder to be announced throughout the month of 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.”