Tarik Ayasun wasn’t surprised at the huge crowd that descended on Veterans Park on Saturday morning to pick up free masks that were being given away from 9 AM – 12:30 PM.
Ayasun, who owns and operates Taray International, an exporting business on the island, was one of two sponsors of the event, along with Al’s Pals.
“We expected a big crowd,” Ayasun stated. “My concern was that there weren’t going to be enough masks, but I think they timed it right, and they gave everybody just enough. So everybody was able to get masks. There were some left over, in fact, but not a lot.
“My business with Jerol is in international sales. And we have excellent connections in China. We don’t buy from over there, we sell. So we’re very well connected.
“When this mask shortage developed, Jim Richards and his wife Allyson, who are friends of mine and live on Marco Island, gave me a call. Jim said, ‘Tarik, I heard the Czech Republic has the least number of people with the virus. And the reason is the government made everybody wear masks from day one. I want everybody on Marco to have masks. What do we do?’
“I said, ‘I can get you the masks. I have contacts.’
“He said, ‘Go ahead and get them.’
“So, I called China, and they connected me with a person in California. He had 180,000 masks. I told him ‘I’ll take 30,000 immediately.’ That was Friday. And on Monday, we got them at our warehouse in Naples. And I called them up and Allyson came with a trailer and helpers. They took 28,000 of them; I kept 2,000 and I donated them to Physicians Regional. They were happy to get them. Then Allyson has this group called Al’s Pals. They got the people together and went out there and did a terrific job with the distribution. They distributed 21,0000 masks. That means they donated 7,000 to NCH, the fire department and the Marco police department. They were all donated. They didn’t charge a penny. It cost them much, much less than they thought it was going to cost them per mask because I knew these people and they were able to give me these at cost.
“The Richards are an unbelievable couple. People like this, you don’t think that they exist anymore.”
Ayasun believes in the people of Marco Island, which he expressed as he stated, “When the knife hits the bone, Marco Islanders are very good people. They listen and they don’t hoard things. Our hope and prayer is that people will wear these masks. If people wear their masks, we might get in front of this thing.”