From meals to masks, volunteers work to lighten load for health care workers on front lines

A restaurant found a new calling after taking a financial hit by the pandemic.

Sal Speziale, the owner of Ciao Osteria, in Centreville, and his team have been delivering dinner to doctors and nurses and other first responders on the front lines of the pandemic.

"You always have to give back to the community. That’s what life is all about," Speziale told Washington, D.C., ABC affiliate WJLA.

Speziale, an Air Force veteran and former airlines pilot, said he'd laid off almost 60% of his workforce due to the pandemic.

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Now, his restaurant is delivering food for free to hospital workers at Inova Fair Oaks and receiving donations from customers via GoFundMe to help him make those meals.

"We called Fair Oaks and [asked], 'Is anybody bringing you anything, lunch?' 'Uh, no. Nobody,'" he said he was told. "It brings tears to my eyes cause I'm watching their smiles."

With the donated funds, his workers prep and deliver the meals.

Kimberly Dillon, a clinical director at Inova Fair Oaks emergency room, told WJLA that Speziale had shown up once and then kept coming back to deliver more meals.

"It’s truly amazing. I watch my team just light up when they show up with all this food," she said. "We generally appreciate this."

Across the country, volunteers have been stepping up and putting their gratitude into action to help those sacrificing their time and even putting their lives in danger to care for patients.

The group Mask Match has been helping small- and mid-size hospitals and clinics get the critical, protective masks they need.

On the group's website, volunteers help those with masks get matched with workers who desperately need them.

"We are looking for high-filtration masks (N95, P95, and R95) and surgical masks," the group says on its website.

From Plano, Texas, to Oakland, California, health care workers have received masks, thanks to the group.

In Virginia, Speziale and his restaurant workers were preparing for another night of delivering sustenance to nearby hospital workers.

"That's one less thing that they don't have to think about," he said. "We’re gonna keep doing this until this is over. We’re not giving up. ... Those are the heroes."