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Barbershop duo hands out 2,500 masks to first responders

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Efforts to get protective masks to more Nassau County residents got a boost last weekend as residents and elected officials joined in collection and distribution efforts.

In Wantagh, MadMen Bespoke Barbershop handed out more than 2,500 masks to first responders along Merrick Road on Saturday, near the boundary between Wantagh and Seaford. And just down the street in Wantagh Park, Hempstead Town Councilman Christopher Carini and Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads joined forces to collect additional personal protective equipment.

Edward Dennehy, 39, who co-owns and operates MadMen with his former wife, Jessica Dennehy, 38, also donated 500 masks to first responders in both Long Beach and Rockville Centre. 

The Dennehys said they had collected 10,000 masks for distribution across Long Island. Saturday’s event aimed at getting the scarc masks into the hands of first responders, whose work has been hampered by shortages.

The Dennehys, who live in Merrick and have a second location in Williston Park, distributed packages of 10 masks free of charge. They said they hoped to collect another 20,000 in the coming months.

Edward is a bespoke tailor — one who makes clothing to order for individual clients — and the couple operate the barbershop together. “The masks came from my contacts in the tailoring world,” some of whom have retooled to meet the surge in demand for PPE, Edward explained.

Those contacts are mainly overseas, and, he said. “We made the decision to import them ourselves after contacting many elected officials, who didn’t return our calls.”

The event was originally scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., but “We already had law enforcement lined up at 2:30,” Dennehy said, “so we decided to begin at 3.” 

“We feel it’s our civic responsibility to ensure that while we have the capability to do so, each [law enforcement] officer, firefighter, nurse, EMT or doctor working on the front lines is shielded,” he added.

The couple had another curbside event planned this week in conjunction with the Catholic Church’s Easter celebrations — “if our deliveries arrive in time,” Dennehy said. The location is still to be determined. He said that he and Jessica were also looking for groups like nurses’ unions, with which they could partner in larger efforts. 

“This is a movement we’re trying to create,” Edward said. “The Dennehys want to ensure personally that masks go to everyone in need.” 

Earlier that afternoon, Carini and Rhoads met Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder in Wantagh Park to receive a gift of 10,000 masks from Robert Griffiths Vintage Auto Body of Westbury.

Carini and Rhoads were at the park to help collect as many unopened packages of PPE — masks, gloves, gowns and protective shoe covers — as possible. The drive-through collections will take place each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the entrance to the park.

“Most of the supplies came in on Saturday, but another shipment will be coming in on Tuesday,” Carini said. “Steve and I both got requests from people to have designated donation spots closer than Eisenhower Park. … Wantagh Park is right on the border of our districts, so we felt it was the perfect place.”

Donors conducted their business briskly, Rhoads said. “The interactions with people were pretty quick,” he said. “The conversations lasted about five minutes. We thanked them for being so generous. The most popular questions we got were about information on what’s going on. Everyone wants to know as much info as they can. We even took some questions about resourcing.”

The packages will be distributed to hospitals by the county’s Office of Emergency Management.

The Dennehys’ operation was even quicker. Cars drove up, rolled down their windows, and one of the two tossed a package into the waiting car.

Rhoads acknowledged that the need to be out among members of the community was stressful. “No question about it,” he said. “We say, ‘only travel outside for essential needs,’ and in the work I’m in, it’s always a concern.” His role as an active firefighter, and Carini’s, as a retired police officer, Rhoads said, had made both men sensitive to their exposure to viruses of all kinds. “Tonight, from midnight to 6, I’ll be driving an ambulance,” he said. “Putting ourselves out there, that’s second nature.”