Milwaukee hospital-grade disinfecting wipes manufacturer Rebel Reform Converting and the Kryshak family, including husband Michael, son Thaddeus, daughter Violet, and matriarch Loretta, recently received the Gwen T. Jackson Award for their relief effort during the COVID-19 pandemic from United Way. Loretta Kryshak accepted the award for the company and the family.
Said Loretta Kryshak, “We believe that volunteering is our responsibility.” She added, “You are who you surround yourself with. The Kryshak Family could not think of a better group to surround ourselves with than United Way and our many MaskUpMKE partners.”
Loretta Kryshak does not take away from the accomplishments of her family that sprang from her son’s recognition of a simple solution early in the COVID epidemic, helping with the face mask shortages.
2020 was a year of challenges and devastation, Mrs. Kryshak recalls. As the outbreak of COVID affected exponentially increasing numbers of people, there were severe shortages of face masks PPE equipment throughout the world.
Brainstorming, the Kryshak’s son Thaddeus, a recent graduate of the University of Miami with a double degree in physics and engineering, recognized that the family’s company Rebel Converting used to make its own hospital disinfecting wipes was the same material used to make N95 face masks.
With scissors, a simple fold, and two rubber bands, the disinfectant cloth used to make disinfecting wipes could be transformed into a face covering as effective as a surgical mask, Loretta Kryshak recounts.
Rebel immediately started manufacturing materials for one million face masks. But they needed volunteers to make the face masks and deliver them to the people who needed them.
Kryshak’s daughter Violet managed Rebel MaskupMKE.org (MKE being an airport symbol and abbreviation for Milwaukee) and its social media campaign. The social media campaign helped recruit volunteers for the effort and educated Milwaukeeans on the value of wearing masks, washing hands, and staying at home when possible.
The Kryshaks’ effort soon attracted an impressive list of collaborating organizations. Milwaukee nonprofits joined forces to organize hundreds of volunteers.
The Rebel Reform MaskUP social media change was joined by advertising and public relations professionals volunteering. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and the City of Milwaukee provided leadership and coordination for the Milwaukee Civic Response Team. The Office of Violence Prevention at the City of Milwaukee Department of Health and UniteMKE distributed REBEL masks to voters standing in line when the pandemic death rate was at its highest.
The Medical College of Wisconsin distributed 300,000 masks to first responders and underserved communities. Milwaukee nonprofit Just One More Ministry took responsibility for distributing 600,000 1.25 million masks.
The effort also attracted help from Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofits.
To date, the Kryshaks’ Rebel Maskup program has provided over 4 million face masks at no charge to people who need them, not just in Milwaukee but in locations as far away as Florida and Texas.
The family beat their goal of making 2.5 million face masks by more than 1.5 million masks.
The United Way honored Rebel Reform and the Kryshak Family for their leadership in community service, but this was hardly their first venture into public service.
Giving away has become a habit for the Kryshaks. So has made making partnerships to do good.
Rebel Converting has fixed up and donated thousands of bikes and helmets with partners, including Dream Bikes, Milwaukee County parks, Sprocket, The Bike Collective, and more.
They have worked with Mr. Bob Under the Bridge, the Feith Family YMCA, and Thomas Jefferson Middle School to produce and distribute over 2,000 backpacks to the homeless. Rebel Converting also supports an annual event held at the Ozaukee County Police Department called Shop with A Cop. Shop with a Cop provides toys and presents to underprivileged youth in each precinct by giving kids a chance to go shopping with a local law enforcement officer for their families.
Rebel Reform provides low-key support for charities such as drywalling, efficient lighting, warehouse racks, and paint.
At the heart of Rebel Reform is Loretta Kryshak. She researches and reviews each organization to determine their impact on the communities they serve. Loretta then analyzes these organizations to assess how Rebel Reform should allocate its resources best to aid them in their efforts, whether through goods, services, human resources, or influx of capital. Rebel Reform also actively seeks out other organizations with similar missions to determine if collaborative efforts will result in a symbiotic effect.
The Kryshaks aren’t looking for donations to their foundation to give to others. They take care of that themselves. But they encourage all Milwaukeeans to look for opportunities to create new wealth to share toward building a healthier, happier, and more prosperous community.