By Joanne McDonald
Response to a local distiller’s production of lifesaving hand sanitizer has been 100 percent proof of community spirit in the fight against COVID-19.
Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville rolled 11,500 bottles of the antiseptic through the line Monday – 90 per cent of the production had already been allocated to first responders. It’s going to more than 40 hospitals across the province, doctors, police, fire, long term care homes, all on the front line of the pandemic.
Tankers full of alcohol/wine donated from neighbouring wineries have been pouring into the Tufford Road distillery and local businesses from label makers to trucking firms have joined the effort to distribute the bottles to where they are most needed.
It’s been a wild ride and an emotional two weeks.
“We’ve had some amazing support to keep us going,” said Geoff Dillon, owner and distiller.
“My adult life I don’t know if I really cried until the last two weeks with everybody coming together,” Dillon said.
“We’ve had some emotional times in the office. We’ve had thousands of stories from doctors and others that are in such need.”
By early this week, Dillon’s had marked the production of about 25,000, 750 ml bottles.
“We have all three stills running and can produce about 10,000 bottles a week,” Dillon said.
What started only two weeks ago, giving small sample bottles to guests visiting the distillery’s sipping room has shifted to lightning in a bottle gear to supply thousands of first responders.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford gave a shout out to Dillon’s Distillers during his daily news update to the province. Ford spoke about the ingenuity of Ontarians including “@dillonsdistills who is shifting their production to making hand sanitizer and providing it at no cost to healthcare workers. This is the heart of the Ontario spirit.”
Two weeks and a building full of alcohol ago, Dillon got some store-bought aloe, combined it with some bitters and on the Friday, made a batch of 30 ml and 100 ml bottles.
By the Saturday they were making a bigger batch, Sunday they capped 3,000 bottles of sanitizer and by Monday it too was gone.
They had no idea of the coming wave of need.
Dillon and hospitality manager Whitney Rorison had a late night sit down, exhausted and looking at the future. It was either shut down the plant and be depressed about the news or roll full steam ahead. The choice was easy.
By that time the news broke nationally and the calls came fast and furious from hospitals, police, fire, shelters and first responders from across the country.
“Now it’s cool to think in the last week we’ve had the community come together to help.” “We’re incredibly glad to put it out there and to have helped start this movement.”
First hand Dillon knows what is at stake. His wife, Dr. Whitney Dillon is doing COVID-19 testing at the Niagara testing site.
Knowing Dillon’s had used up their supply, Brian Schmidt of Vineland Estates Winery was one of the first to step up sending alcohol and pallets of glass to make the next batch.
Many have rallied their support and Dillon fears leaving anybody off the list as he names those who have generously offered support including Vineland Estates Winery, Andrew Peller Ltd., Diamond Estates, Arterra Wines, Creekside Estate Winery, Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, Foreign Affair Winery, Forty Creek Whisky, donating thousands of litres of alcohol/wine, glass and caps.
H. Moore Printing Services Ltd. is printing the labels. Cirklepak is making the cardboard cases. Borderline Systems Niagara Inc. has donated the glass.
“Now we’ve partnered with Beatties office supplies with their fleet of vehicles and Volkswagon Canada for distribution across Ontario doing next day delivery for free to essential services.,” Dillon said.
“We are now delivering to hospitals, Canadian border services, military, doctors’ offices all over the province, shelters, COVID testing centres….”
Dillon’s is working non-stop, inspired by the kudos, “we love you guys, keep going,” requests for supplies and offers of support.
Dillon’s has ethanol sanitizer available delivered free. Cities/municipalities or essential services in need can email: email@example.com
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-563-3030.