At 11 a.m. on September 13, 2001, Rob Freese answered the phone at Globe Manufacturing Company in Pittsfield. Rescue workers at the Pentagon needed 300 more protective suits for firefighters engaged in rescue efforts following the September 11 attack. And they needed delivery by 6 p.m.
Freese, a company owner, gathered the entire team on the factory floor. The team took stock of every available suit, redeployed them all for the firefighters at the Pentagon, and packaged them for shipping. A FedEx “mercy flight” was secured — commercial flights were still grounded — and Freese got on board with the pilot in Manchester. A local distributor met them at the airport in Virginia with a truck.
They pulled into the Pentagon parking lot at 6:05 p.m.
It was a remarkable communal effort on a very dark day. And one that says a lot about this company.
Globe is a civic-minded operation that has been run by four generations of the Freese family in Pittsfield since 1901. It employs 425 people at three locations (the Pittsfield headquarters is the largest, with 320) and is a consistent and generous contributor to community near and far. When the local day care needed a new heating and cooling system, Globe made it happen. A fire protection system for Canterbury Shaker Village? Globe helped with that, too. Local fire departments, the Red Cross, Pittsfield Players, 4-H, Cub Scouts, Little League — all have received support from Globe. The company supports services for burn victims and has outfitted Mercy Ships with firefighting gear. They rarely make a public statement about any of it. It’s just what they do.
Now, Globe has opened a $1 million donor-advised fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to support community causes in Pittsfield and bordering communities. (Globe also established a fund at the Foundation in 2008 to support music and the arts in Pittsfield schools.) About $40,000 will be granted from the new fund each year, and the fund is set up to serve the region in perpetuity.
“We thought, long-term, it would be nice to have some money set aside so that we can help fund some additional activities,” said Globe President and Co-owner Don Welch (who is also a family member). “We’ve been in Pittsfield for 116 years, and this is a way to say ‘thank you.’”
Courtland F.H. Freese bought the Globe Manufacturing Company in 1901 and moved it into rooms above a harness shop in Pittsfield. The company made, among other things, leather coats for firemen.
Now, Globe specializes in turnout gear for firefighters, supplying fire departments from Pittsfield to Anchorage, Alaska, and in 82 countries. It makes everything in the United States, and sources all material possible from the United States. Everything is made custom, and to order, so every firefighter gets gear specifically designed to meet their needs.
The factory floor in Pittsfield is a blur of activity. Precision machines cut high-tech fabric. Stitchers attach sleeves and collars to coats. Seams are run through a machine that seals them with waterproofing tape. A lab stands ready to test for heat and flame resistance and other requirements. Orders are inspected and packed for shipping.
When Rob Freese talks about Globe’s mission, he does not talk about it in terms of making pants and coats.
“These men and women are putting their lives on the line literally every day,” he says, of the nation’s firefighters. “It’s our job to bring them home.”
Rob Freese has been a volunteer firefighter in Pittsfield for more than half his life. He is senior vice president for marketing at the company, but has done everything from washing floors to shipping orders. His brother, Gef Freese, who started out doing odd jobs and maintenance, is now co-owner and senior vice president for manufacturing.
The Globe Community Fund is one more expression of the culture of a business where community matters.
As Welch makes his way around the factory floor, he greets every single person by name.
Theresa Perkins is a stitcher who has worked at Globe for 29 years. “It is a good place to work and they care about their people,” she said. “They do so much for the community.”
A team of Globe employees will review requests for the new donor-advised fund. The Foundation will work with the team, providing expertise about the nonprofit sector and best practices for reviewing proposals. Globe set up the fund as an “individually managed fund” meaning that Globe’s investment advisors at Citizens Bank will continue to manage the asset. Globe’s grant team will recommend grants to be made. The Foundation ensures that the intended recipients are qualified agencies and distributes the grants.
“There’s a lot of good folks and a lot of good things happening in our community,” Rob Freese said.
“This is our part to spur that along. If the community is healthy, we’re healthy.”
Inquiries about funding through the Globe Community Fund may be made to GlobeCommunityFund@globefiresuits.com.