Gratitude and generosity were graciously exchanged Tuesday morning outside the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce office off Sperryville Pike as members of the local business community stopped by to pick up their allotment of KN-95 masks donated by Lowes of Culpeper.

“I’m not sure how they got so many,” said Lowes Store Manager Scott O’Toole, of the roughly 4,000 masks that have been distributed throughout the area. “[Lowes does] a lot of business internationally, so I guess they had their connections.”

The KN-95 mask is a filtering respirator face mask made in China that provides the wearer 95 percent protection against bacteria, viruses, pollution and other environmental particles such as dust and pollen. KN-95 masks have a 3-D foldable design with earloops, a nose bridge piece, and will provide a fitted seal and five-layer protection.

O’Toole said the national store chain provided the Culpeper store with the donations as part of a nationwide effort to help prevent spreading COVID-19. At first, he said, he was having a hard time giving the masks away.

“We provided about 500 to the Black Lives Matter event held out at Eldon Farm a few weeks ago,” O’Toole said of a peaceful gathering near Sperryville organized as a constructive protest to the death of George Floyd. But other than that, for a while he was giving out only a few here and there.

“Somehow I just wasn’t getting the word out I guess,” O’Toole said. As he considered the problem, it occurred to him the Culpeper Chamber might be able to help. “As soon as I got together with them, things started happening,” he said.

Culpeper Chamber CEO Jeff Say said he was grateful to be able to help out. “That’s exactly what we’re here to do,” he said. “Our whole purpose is to make those connections between business leaders in the community that will help everyone involved.”

The mask donation is incredibly valuable for local businesses, Say added.

“It’s critical to their bottom line, especially in this difficult time, trying to combat a deadly virus,” he said. “For employees to feel comfortable interacting with people, and for customers to feel comfortable doing the business they want to do, having these masks is just so important.”

Say commented that the Centers for Disease Control recently announced that if all parties are wearing masks, transactions can be safely made with people less distant, or as close as three feet, if necessary.

Elizabeth O’Reilly, book keeper for the Museum of Culpeper History, picked up a total of 50 masks Tuesday morning.

“These are for museum employees and volunteers, but also for visitors to the museum, as we prepare to reopen,” O’Reilly said.

She explained museum leaders have been discussing a possible opening in late August. “Providing masks for visitors is an important part of our reopening plan,” she said.

Wade Schick Chrysler parts driver Bill Deane stopped by for 125 masks for the car dealership, thanking O’Toole and Say for the donation.

A representative from the Culpeper County Education Association picked up 410 masks for teachers in the local school system, who learned Monday night that they would be teaching children in person after a vote that evening by the school board during a work session.

Amanda Johnson, who recently opened a new law practice in Culpeper, was effusive in expressing her gratitude for the 10 masks she claimed as part of the donation. “I know we’re small, but we’re so glad to get these!” she said.

Shawn McElhinney, who recently stepped into the role of acting executive director at Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville, stopped to pick up masks for a smaller workforce due to the effects of the virus. “We had to furlough three employees,” he said regretfully.

As other business partners continued to arrive in the parking lot of the Culpeper Chamber, O’Toole said he was glad he could be part of such a worthy effort.

“It’s been great for me to be involved in something so positive, that helps so many people,” he said.

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