When the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit home in Ford County, Victory Electric and Boot Hill Distillery partnered to meet the community’s urgent need for hand cleanser amid a nationwide shortage. “The main ingredient in hand cleanser is alcohol, and Boot Hill Distillery was in a prime position with the equipment and ingredients to make it,” said Jerri Whitley, vice president of communications. Employees volunteered at the distillery to help brew hand cleanser and fill, label and pack 4-ounce bottles for distribution.
“With the nationwide shortage of disinfectants, cleaning products, toilet paper and many other items, many of our members were desperately searching for hand sanitizer to protect themselves,” said Shane Laws, CEO. “We knew we wanted to do something to help our members and local communities.”
Victory Electric quickly put together a plan for two drive-up distribution events at the Victory Electric headquarters and the distillery in downtown Dodge City. More than 2,500 bottles were distributed from the two locations within a few hours. Ford County Sheriff’s Office had deputies on hand to help with distribution and traffic control.
“We challenged our businesses to be innovative during this time and this project exceeded our expectations. The amount of community support that was put into making this happen is amazing,” said Anna Bierken, president and CEO of the Dodge City Area Chamber of Commerce. “Projects like these show the true character of our community.”
Additional distribution events were held in Bucklin, Ford, Ingalls, Jetmore, Cimarron, Montezuma, Copeland and Spearville. In total there were 12 events, 127 volunteers, $2,380 donated at the events to the cause, and more than 3,500 bottles given away to the southwest Kansas communities.
“Boot Hill Distillery and Victory Electric have always been pillars of the community, giving back where they can,” said Christina Haselhorst, a Victory Electric member. “Not only did they provide this wonderful sanitizer for our citizens, but there were countless members volunteering their time to hand out the bottles efficiently, quickly, safely, and with welcoming smiles.”
With no slowdown in demand, Boot Hill Distillery is embracing the fact that it’s becoming known for more than just spirits, they are now a regional source for hand cleanser.
“Our original goal was 2,500 bottles. Within less than a day we had increased our goal to 15,000 4-ounce bottles and are now set up to produce over 60,000 4-ounce bottles and 240-gallon jugs,” said Hayes Kelman, the distillery’s owner.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has cleared distillers to produce cleaning products, but the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t provided guidance for distillers on hand sanitizer formulas. Kelman has been following guidance from the World Health Organization for mixing ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and other ingredients to produce the cleaner.
Grateful Kansans have been kicking in cash to help keep the hand cleanser flowing, and shipments are in progress to other areas of the state. Through the Distillery’s GoFundMe page, a website designed for crowd funding, they have raised almost $7,000 from 66 donors.
“We have prioritized medical, first responders, nursing homes, and then others that have no chance to wash their hands such as truck drivers and delivery drivers,” said Kelman. “Our ultimate goal is to get the product into as many hands as possible.”
If you would like to donate to the cause, visit gofundme.com and search for Boot Hill Hand Cleanser. All donations go directly to the costs associated with producing hand cleanser and distributing it to the community. The hand cleanser is also available to purchase, but cannot be shipped. To acquire cleanser as an individual, watch the distillery’s Facebook page for distribution event announcements.