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As Face Mask Supply Dwindles, F.C. Business Owners Answer the Call

ZOYA ATELIER’S AMY BITICI (right) poses for a quick picture with three of her employees at the Falls Church boutique. The small crew at Zoya’s announced a two-week quarantine on March 24 so the usual bridal shop could shift its attention to making masks for those in medical professions as well as vulnerable members of the community. (Photo: Courtesy Amy Bitici/Zoya’s Atelier)

As face masks become sparser at local pharmacies and stores, a push to replenish the supply is popping up from the ranks of two Falls Church business owners.

Terry Lederer, who co-owns Lederer’s Sound Service with husband Chuck, has co-organized a volunteer group that has already sewn over 250 masks in the past eight days. That effort is matched by Amy Bitici of the bridal shop Zoya’s Atelier, who has kept four of her employees on the payroll sewing masks in an operation that began this past Monday.

Lederer’s is already doing essential work for the pandemic in outfitting hospitals with technology geared toward patient safety. The company’s patented ventilator system allows hospitals greater capacity to monitor patients remotely which is an essential factor in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

While her husband has been working around the clock overseeing the installation of a new ventilator system at Fair Oaks Hospital, Terry and Tyson’s Corner resident Rozita Ezazi spend much of their day sewing masks as well as co-managing the Facebook group that started to coordinate mask production.

On top of that, Lederer remotely works a day job at Little Flock Music through her Oak Hill home while Ezazi continues her day job as a financial manager in IT and spends free time researching and updating the group’s Facebook page with information.

“Basically, [Rozita] and I text each other throughout the day to keep tabs on those who need supplies and those who have a completed supply of masks. We use Facebook as our communication with the group, as we share patterns, instructions, helpful hints in constructing the masks and photos of finished masks,” Lederer said in an email.

Ezazi and Lederer, who started the operation on March 23, are supplying local nursing homes, a cancer center and are fielding more requests.
The pair connected through previous volunteer work with the Touching Heart non-profit organization. The call to action to help the community was intensified after Ezazi had seen the outbreak hit her home country of Iran.

“The outbreak first hit my radar in early February in Iran. I was upset, worried and scared for family members and people in general, specially with the sanction,” she told the News-Press.

Ezazi’s sister-in-law was a dressmaker and began to make masks for local medical institutions to counteract the lack of supplies. Ezazi got advice from her, but reached out to a Facebook group before starting her own. As the group started growing, Ezazi and Lederer decided to cap the group at 73 people to keep it manageable.

“All group members are either friends or friends-of-friends and have a passion for this mission and we couldn’t be prouder!” said Lederer.

In downtown Falls Church, Amy Bitici has had to shift her mission — like most everyone else affected by the pandemic. The bridal shop announced a two-week (as of now) hiatus for the protection of their employees on March 24.

Since then, Bitici has been paying out of pocket to keep her employees on the payroll.

“We feel just supported by the community and the Chamber of Commerce and the needs at an unprecedented time,” said Bitici.

Bitici plans to give to medical professionals as well as anyone in the “local community to everyone that feels vulnerable.” Although she’s not asking for donations, she’s considering asking for donations for materials.

Like Bitici, Lederer and Ezazi have been coordinating to buy materials and some of their members have materials on hand. They anticipate some difficulties and are also asking for donations which Ezazi believes will be easier to procure with a network of 73 members.

“We have received a lot of donations of fabric, elastic and bias tape, but our supplies are running low. We are hopeful that we will continue to receive deliveries of donated supplies, particularly with yesterday’s announcement of the stay at home mandate,” said Lederer.

Additionally, the coronavirus poses unique challenges for interaction and distribution but the groups are taking it as it comes. For Bitici, this involved the decision to not ask for further volunteers to the store so her employees wouldn’t be infected. For Lederer and Ezazi, there are some non-sewers in the group who have volunteered to pick up and deliver supplies and contact is minimized between people.

“We feel very blessed and fulfilled to be able to give back during this crisis,” said Lederer.