By Matt Koehler

Last month, I spoke to Dianne Lee at The Press about their community initiative of making face shields and two kinds of face masks, and giving them away for free. Since speaking with the part owner and spokesperson, The Press has increased their efforts to produce even more masks and face shields per day. 

I reached out to The Press to find out more about their continuing efforts to help the community during this unprecedented pandemic. This is what Lee had to say. 

What has been the community response from your efforts? 

Amazing support. We’ve had people calling to make donations or wanting to buy masks in bulk. 

How many masks and shields have you distributed so far? And to whom? 

Face shields are only 100 but currently 10,000 masks. We’ve donated to individuals, senior living homes, Children’s National Hospital, police departments, court houses specifically for victims of domestic abuse, custodians, security guards, concierges, and leasing offices.

How have you ramped up your initiatives since we last spoke? 

We converted our retail store to a small mask production facility. No one is allowed in the store except employees. This is at our Mosaic District location. We have gone from making 100 masks a day to an average of 400-500. One day we made 699. This is a huge feat because these are home made.

Have you had requests from hospitals/ first responders and the like for more masks or shields? 

Yes, they are in need of PPE. We just received a call today, on a Sunday from a government agency as well.

On that note, how much longer do you think you will keep these initiatives going? 

We were planning to slow down but see that as more openings are being planned people are sourcing more masks. We thought we would be slowing down but might have to continue.

I saw that you’ve been able to bring some employees back to part time/full time? Were you able to do this because you started covering the cost of your masks and face shields – not for profit, though, right? 

We as owners make zero profit but cover the costs of our employees labor in the mask making process. We were able to receive community support with dry cleaning and laundry so we opened our Calvert location [and our] Wharf location, in addition to our Fairfax and Capitol Hill locations. We were able to open all our stores!!

How’s business been going? Did I hear that you’ve gotten donations or more business since last month? 

We have! We were able to fine tune our cleaning process with an amazing solvent called Trebon from Kreussler. It’s our go to cleaning solvent for uniforms which is in high demand for police uniforms […]etc. We’ve seen an increase in wash and fold and household items as well.

Do you have any thoughts on whether opening up the economy, i.e. more businesses slowly and partially opening their doors to customers, is a good idea? 

The Press Dry Cleaner has been in DC for almost 10 years now. We always tell our staff, we’re here to serve DC. Ask of DC […] As a business owner we want to see the economy opening back up but as someone who makes donations and deliveries for PPE, I am still wary. 

Any final thoughts? 

I have seen a huge difference in our community with the way masks are being perceived. In the earlier phases of the pandemic, I was yelled at by someone in DC for walking away from her while we were both wearing masks. She said it was insulting. Now I see almost everyone wearing masks and “dodging” me as we practice social distancing.

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