Many of the supplies needed by the nation’s health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic are in short supply, including hand sanitizer.
As it turns out, it can be produced quite easily — easy enough that many distillers who would normally be producing alcohol are beginning to switch gears, doing what they can to help meet the demand, including brothers David and Billy Vondrasek.
“When you see these things happening, you go, ‘Why isn’t somebody doing something?’” said Billy, a winemaker with Wine Cowboys. “We just looked at each other (and said), ‘Well, wait a minute, we can do something.’ So, we did.”
Since the increase in demand, the Tax and Trade Bureau and Food and Drug Administration, which both oversee any kind of alcoholic beverage production, have started to allow permitted distilleries to go from producing alcohol for beverages to producing alcohol for hand sanitizer.
“It says a lot for a government agency to move that quick, and so, here we go — we’re doing it,” David said.
David, a distiller at Azeo Distillery in Paso Robles, and Billy set to work getting the approvals needed, and soon, the distillery began producing sanitizer, made primarily from wine grapes.
“I already started the wheels in motion before I let my boss know what I was doing, so shout-out to our president Ryan Horn for saying, ‘I like it,’ because we’re doing strictly donation,” David added.
The first batch of sanitizer totaled more than enough to fill a 50-gallon trash can or approximately 2,000 portions, which after the required three-day quarantine period, the Vondrasek brothers immediately set out to distribute to smaller hospitals or first responders on the front lines.
Upon making the final donation at their last stops here in the Santa Clarita Valley at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, then at the SCV Sheriff’s Station, there were smiling faces all around.
“I always worry about what could go wrong, even on the drive out, and you know what, this was our last stop of the day (and) everything’s been great,” Billy said.
They were met by Romelle Kaine and William Brandon of the Deja Vu Foundation, who will be taking the product out to the Antelope Valley Hospital as well as first responders.
Just 10 days ago, the Vondrasek brothers set out with a goal, and with the help of numerous people, they were able to complete it.
“We’re just thankful for all the people (who have helped out) … everybody (who) jumped aboard and (has been) helping out,” Billy said. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”
Still, they said it’s just the start.
“I’m going to go back home, I’m gonna start running the still,” David said, “and (make) another batch.”