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Members to Receive 2020 HEARTS Award

AHFA members American Leather Holdings, Norwalk Furniture and Telescope Casual Furniture all have been selected to receive “HEARTS” awards during the June Total Home & Gift Market in Dallas.

The one-time awards program was conceived by Dallas Market Center and ART, the creative home furnishings network, to honor companies that have shown outstanding leadership, empathy and service during the COVID-19 health crisis. Dallas Market Center and ART invited 13 industry trade associations, including AHFA and ICFA, to select one award recipient each.

AHFA selected Dallas-based American Leather Holdings. Although many AHFA member companies altered their business operations to help produce personal protection equipment (PPE) during the onset of the COVID pandemic in March, American Leather Holdings, including Dallas-based American Leather and Conover, N.C.-based Lee Industries, produced an estimated 360,000 masks and 82,000 gowns distributed to health care workers and other front-line workers in two states. 

Once local demand was met, American Leather expanded its operations in May and made face masks available to the public, with all proceeds benefitting the North Texas Food Bank, and later donated 5,000 masks to the Dallas Independent School District for teachers and support staff.    

“If this pandemic has taught us anything,” American Leather CEO Bruce Birnbach said in April, “it’s that we rely on the hard work of hundreds of thousands of people to get through each day. Whether it’s the brave men and women who put their lives on the line each day to help those afflicted with the virus, or those in our neighborhoods who are organizing food drives for those in need, many of these individuals go unrecognized…” 

In keeping with the company’s appreciation for ordinary Americans working behind the scenes, American Leather launched a “Heroes Deserve Comfort” giveaway in April as a way to honor the medication professionals, emergency crew, essential retail workers and delivery drivers on the front lines of battling COVID and keeping essential services available. In July, five winners were selected to receive a Comfort Air chair and ottoman valued at nearly $5,000. The winners came from Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington and California and included a nurse working in a Philadelphia intensive care unit and a truck driver delivering essential goods. 

When factories reopened, American Leather Holdings plants implemented significant safety measures, including split shifts, distancing workers and constant cleaning. The company also represented the industry in June when it hosted U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in its Dallas plant, where he could see all of these safety measures at work. This coverage came just weeks before the industry launched its Alliance4Safety initiative, an effort to persuade government officials to look at a company’s ability to operate safely when determining whether or not it is an “essential” business.   

“American Leather put our message on center stage, demonstrating for the Labor Secretary that ‘Safe=Essential,’” said AHFA CEO Andy Counts. “American Leather Holdings protected jobs in two states and kept people working while also meeting stringent health and safety protocols. Their commitment to their workers, to their communities, to their customers and to their industry was extraordinary.” 

ICFA selected Telescope Casual to receive its HEARTS Award. As the threat of the pandemic took root in mid-March, Telescope Casual CEO Kathy Juckett announced a two-week shutdown of the manufacturing operation in Granville, N.Y., noting that every employee would continue to be fully paid during the closure. A subsequent state order closed all “non-essential” businesses, resulting in a 10-week stoppage, during which all Telescope workers received their normal paychecks. 

At the beginning of the closure, the Telescope management team worked with state and local government officials to coordinate PPE production. Eight sewers following additional health and safety precautions in the factory helped the company ship more than 10,000 masks in its first eight days of dedicated production. 

As a leading business in Upstate New York, Telescope Casual dedicated its efforts first to its employees, community members and their families. After satisfying those needs, the company continued mask production for shipment to its independent sales representatives and retail partners. 

The International Home Furnishings Representatives Association (IHFRA) selected Norwalk Furniture to receive its HEARTS Award. Norwalk also shifted production early in the pandemic, producing face masks and medical gowns for area hospitals and first responders. 

“Caroline Hipple and her team found ways to utilize existing materials they had on hand to begin production of the then desperately needed (personal protection) supplies,” remarked IHFRA Executive Director Ray Allegrezza. 

In November, Norwalk also funded production of 100 special facemasks that were sent to governors’ offices in all 50 states by the Alliance4Safety. The facemasks were enclosed with a promotional piece highlighting the Alliance4Safety “Safe=Essential” message.

All 13 HEARTS Awards honorees will be recognized at a June event  in Dallas. Originally slated for January, the event has been rescheduled due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.