As the coronavirus began to spread across the country, Americans were told that good hand hygiene was essential to prevent infection. Suddenly, bottles of hand sanitizer vanished from shelves seemingly overnight.
People were looking for creative ways to keep their hands clean during the sanitizer shortage, and that prompted beverage companies to think about how they could help their communities.
“We didn’t have the devices to dispense it or to give it to the end users,” said Nick Poch, nursing practice leader for the vascular access team at University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City.
Nick turned to his father for some help. His dad suggested he call an old friend from high school, Kirk Tyler, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Tyler put Rob Feeney, president and chief operating officer at Atlantic Coca-Cola, on the case. His team figured that a particular 12-ounce bottle, small enough to fit into a lab coat pocket, might work. They matched the bottle with a sport-cap from a local Powerade® production plant, so the sanitizer would be dispensed easily .
After only four days, Poch had 1,000 bottles in hand for local healthcare professionals.
“They were able to step up in a very immediate and quick way, and I just appreciate that,” said Poch.
“We needed to help our communities,” said Feeney. “People in our community need hand sanitizer. There’s a huge demand for it; people can’t get it.”
Other essential workers like police officers needed hand sanitizer too for their continued dealings with the public. In Toledo, Ohio, Coca-Cola Consolidated donated 25 gallons of hand sanitizer to the local police department.
“Any sort of little donation helps us and goes a long way, just to know that we have community support,” said Toledo Police Department Assistant Public Information Officer Andrew Dlugosielski. “We can keep our focus on enforcing the law, keep our focus on helping the community … it’s very helpful.”
In Enka, N.C., Southeastern Container, which makes beverage bottles, pulled out old bottle molds for hand sanitizer use.
“We just realized that we had something to offer in this space, that could help fight this pandemic event. We knew we could help,” said Doug Wehrkamp, president and chief operating officer. “Everybody just wants to do their part.”
In Albany, Ga., the Hope Center, a charitable mission out of the Sherwood Baptist Church, devotes part of its space to storage for disaster relief items and had 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer. But it didn’t have bottles.
Jim McBride, the executive pastor for the church, was connected to Southeastern Container.
Southeastern donated 6,000 22-ounce bottles to Hope Center to be dispersed to the community, including deliveries to 11 nearby nursing homes, the local jail and the police department.
“When we put the hand sanitizer in the hands of the people… the look of gratitude, the words, expressions of gratitude are just overwhelming,” said Ken Bevel, pastor of local missions and connections.