Man Trying To Get Lip Balm To Troops Overseas
Posted: WS0C-TV, Charlotte, NC, 6:49 pm EST December 12, 2008
A local man is helping a Rockwell company get thousands of dollars in lip balm to the troops in Iraq.

Earlier this week, Rodney Cress, a Vietnam veteran, was contacted by Filltech Inc., which asked him if he could help get the lip balm overseas. Cress had organized a book drive for troops earlier this year.

Cress said he had no idea he would be picking up 27,000 tubes. He now has 62 boxes of lip balm in his garage.

Filltech employees said the business wanted to donate the lip balm to the troops after they found out it was one of the most sought-after items there. They had trouble finding out how to get it to the troops, so they contacted Cress.

Filltech makes its own lip balm and fills containers for some national brands. Due to the retail price of the balm, the company made a minimum donation of $27,000.

Cress said he wants to get the tubes delivered by the holidays. He’s contacted Sen. Richard Burr’s office, which has promised to help.

He said he’s also hoping some military support groups could have it shipped.

He invited anyone with troops overseas to contact him at 704-213-1312. Once it'd been confirmed that someone, has a loved one serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, they could pick up their box of lip balm at First Bank on S. Jake Alexander Blvd, where Cress’s wife works.

Salisbury Post, Thursday, May 05, 2011 12:00 AM
Lip balm a perfect research project

By Susan Shinn

Catawba College News Service

SALISBURY — The next time you apply that oh-so-convenient lip balm, think of Carly Sabat.

Sabat, 21, a senior chemistry major at Catawba College, researched lip balm as part of her senior project. Her research has garnered accolades for her and for the college.

A native of Ohio, Sabat was in need of a fall research project. She will enter the University of South Carolina’s School of Pharmacy this fall, and she’s spent summers working at a pharmacy back home. She looked to Dr. Mark Sabo, chairman of Catawba’s Department of Chemistry, to choose a project for her.

What he chose was an analysis of the sunscreen components in lip balm made by a local company, Filltech USA in Rockwell. According to FDA rules, its lip balm, which is sold exclusively to Dollar Tree, must be analyzed for its active ingredients.

To accomplish this, Sabat worked with chemist Betty Noble at Filltech USA and Sabo at Catawba College. “My job was to develop a method to measure the amount of the components in the lip balm,” Sabat says, so she went about extracting the product’s two sunscreen components, Octinoxate and Oxybenzone.

The project was one that interested Sabat.

“I’m an avid user of lip balm,” says Sabat, a member of Catawba’s softball team. She loves to be in the sun, she says.

Sabat used a state-of-the-art instrument called a high performance liquid chromatograph to measure the two components. She used samples of each to set a standard so she could compare the amount that was found in the lip balm. According to the product’s labeling, there should be 7.5 percent Octinoxate and 3.5 percent Oxybenzone.

“Filltech USA wants it to be exact,” Sabat notes.

After Sabat verified that the instruments were measuring correctly, she ran test after test on the lip balm, spending untold hours in the lab during the fall semester.

“We found that we had an excellent method to analyze the components,” she says.

Sure enough, the two components measured the way they should. Sabat reported her results back to the company, and presented two papers outlining her research — one at the Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honor Society conference at UNC-Pembroke in March and the other at the National American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in late March. Jacob Hill, who assisted in Sabat’s research, presented the paper in Anaheim. Sabat’s paper was awarded best research presentation at Pembroke and also received an award in the analytical division at the Anaheim event.

Sabo has nothing but praise for Sabat.

He explains, “This research was done through the Catawba Analytical Research Laboratory, an industrial-academic partnership at Catawba College, which has provided Carly with an excellent opportunity to work with a local pharmaceutical company, experience the practice of chemistry in today’s society, and enhance her problem-solving skills. Through her undergraduate research experience, she not only demonstrated technical and scientific knowledge, but also demonstrated that she knows how to apply that knowledge to the problem at hand.

He adds, “Carly’s analytical ability is apparent as she learns the fundamental principles of chemistry, applies this knowledge to the problem at hand, and reports accurate and precise results after careful observation and documentation. She usually starts her assignments early and does not wait until the last minute. She doesn’t shy away from tough problems, but rather embraces them as an opportunity to learn. Carly is very intelligent, conscientious, organized, and dependable. She consistently produces high quality work, whether for homework, term projects or exams. Her personal integrity, high academic standards and deep maturity level make her a well-respected role model for her peers.”

Sabat, the daughter of Debbie and Joseph Sabat of Warren, Ohio, grew up planning to be a teacher or veterinarian, until she took chemistry her junior year in high school.

“I just fell in love with chemistry,” she says. “It made so much sense to me.”

Two neighbors were pharmacists and told her that with her love of chemistry and math and her outgoing personality, pharmacy was the field for her.

Sabat was recruited to play softball at Catawba, and declared chemistry as her major her freshman year.

“I never had a doubt,” she says.

At Catawba, she says, she’s received personal attention from her professors.

“Their door is always open. They are always willing to help.”

She adds of her experience here, “I didn’t want the big-time undergraduate university. I’m not just a number. I’m known as a person here.”

Being at Catawba, she says, has taught her how to study. “This has prepared me to go on to the next step.”

Sabat plans a career in retail pharmacy.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.

The Salisbury Post, Friday, February 04, 2011 12:00 AM
Rockwell lip balm maker thrives after being on brink of shutting down

U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, on right, watches FillTech USA employees in Rockwell make lip balm Thursday during a tour led by CEO Dennis Jones. Photo by Emily Ford

FillTech USA in Rockwell makes lip balm and has doubled its workforce since 2008. Photo by Emily Ford
U.S. Rep. Howard Coble toured the FillTech USA plant Thursday in Rockwell with CEO Dennis Jones. Photo by Emily Ford
U.S. Rep. Howard Coble watches FillTech USA employees in Rockwell make lip balm Thursday during a tour led by CEO Dennis Jones, on right. Photo by Emily Ford
FillTech USA in Rockwell manufacturers lip balm and has doubled its workforce since 2008. Photo by Emily Ford
FillTech USA CEO Dennis Jones shows U.S. Rep. Howard Coble lip balm manufactured at the Rockwell plant. Chemist Betty Noble and Terri Welch, Coble's district director, listen. Photo by Emily Ford
By Emily Ford

ROCKWELL — A scrappy lip balm manufacturer in Rockwell that narrowly avoided closing in 2008 has doubled its workforce and plans an expansion that could generate up to 50 jobs, the owners say.

U.S. Rep. Howard Coble stopped by Thursday to see how FillTech USA managed to grow during a recession. He thanked them for sending thousands of tubes of lip balm to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two years.

New owners Cookie and Dennis Jones told Coble they are pursuing financing to build a 16,000-square-foot addition with three more production lines.

“I commend them for what they are doing,” Coble said. “They are not shipping jobs overseas, they are keeping jobs here.”

FillTech Inc. was in crisis in April 2008 and looking for a buyer in a last ditch effort to save the company.

The Joneses had heard about the plant from Betty Noble, a North Carolina chemist they’d worked with for years developing products for the aesthetics industry. The couple drove from Virginia Beach to meet with owners.

They discovered FillTech had never been computerized and had little documentation of performance or financial history, Cookie Jones said. They declined the purchase.

But as they walked across the parking lot, Dennis Jones said he asked to poke his head in the manufacturing plant next door to the office.

Twelve women were standing at conveyor belts, working as hard as they could, Cookie Jones said. All were employed through a temporary agency, earning minimum wage with no benefits, she said.

Plant Manager Wanda Godfrey, who had been with FillTech since 1999, asked if they were considering buying the plant, where workers were filling their final order.

Although the couple had decided not to buy FillTech, Cookie Jones said the look of fear and despair in Godfrey’s eyes made them reconsider.

They agreed to go home and pray about the situation.

They now call that conversation with Godfrey a divine encounter.

For 25 years, the Joneses have traveled to the outskirts of Russia, China and Africa to establish churches and do missions work. But that day, they said, they sensed that Rockwell had just become their new mission field.

They bought FillTech in May 2008, added “USA” to the name and converted the temporary workers to permanent, fulltime employees with benefits. Everyone got a raise.

They introduced a profit sharing plan “so that every employee shares in the success and growth of the company,” Dennis Jones said. “We would either sink or swim together.”

Long-time friend and business associate Scott Hughes moved his family from Portland, Ore. to serve as chief operations officer. One of the previous owners, Rita Lefler, joined the new company as director of operations.

Noble, the chemist, is also a partner and oversees new product development and regulatory affairs for FillTech.

And Godfrey continues to serve as plant and batching manager.

“They took on the problems of the company,” Godfrey said. “It was such a relief that our doors would stay open.”

When they realized the company had no more orders to fill, the Joneses shut down the plant and sent everyone home for seven weeks with pay.

Along with Hughes, the couple went to work figuring out how to rebuild FillTech.

Since then, the company has grown to 25 fulltime employees and become a viable player in the manufacturing industry, specializing in private label lip balm.

The FDA-compliant facility makes 45 personal care products ranging from hand sanitizer to liquid vitamins. FillTech has several national accounts, including Food Lion, Walgreens and Dollar Tree.

The Joneses acknowledge it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s been an uphill battle in this economy,” Dennis Jones said.

The couple has yet to take a salary.

They have a product-development business in Virginia, and Dennis Jones’ book “Climbing Out of Adversity” is about to be released.

They have an option to buy the lot next door to FillTech, located at 228 W. Main St. They will donate the vacant house on the property to Nazareth Children’s Home and construct an addition to the plant, Dennis Jones said.

“We are waiting for the Lord to provide what we need,” he said.

Their philosophy has been to build lives, not just build a business, they said.

“Despite today’s troubled and uncertain economy, God has been true to the vision he placed in our hearts,” Dennis Jones said. “And through the dedication and hard work of our faithful staff, FillTech USA has proven to be the little company that can.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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