Publisher's note: The author of this post, Jules Norwood, is a contributor to ECU News Services.
Neil Moye of Simply Natural Creamery donated gallon jugs for the first batch of sanitizer. | Photos: Contributed
As the residents of eastern North Carolina adapted to working from home and homeschooling, and the first cases of COVID-19 in Pitt and Beaufort counties were confirmed, community members began to look for ways to help.
Facing a potential shortage of hand sanitizer, Dr. David Collier, professor of pediatrics and health disparities at East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine, had ordered a large supply of glycerin. Dr. Todd Jackson, director of pharmacy at ECU Physicians, had already begun compounding sanitizer with ingredients he had on hand and what he could source from the labs of other faculty members.
Todd Jackson (left) and Nick Sanders compound hand sanitizer at 1000 Piers in Washington.
Using the FDA-approved recipe from the World Health Organization, Jackson was able to provide hand sanitizer to Greenville's emergency homeless shelter, Community Crossroads Center, and other public agencies and nonprofits.
Meanwhile, Nick Sanders, owner of 1000 Piers gin distillery in Washington, had been approached by city officials looking to use his supplies and equipment to help meet municipal sanitizer needs. The city's initial request was for 60 gallons, and Sanders reached out to Collier for help.
"We are now pooling our resources (our glycerin, Nick's ethanol and Todd's compounding expertise, licensing and effort) and will work together to see if we can meet the needs of municipalities and health care entities across the region,"
Collier said. A timely donation from Simply Natural Creamery provided jugs and lids for the first production run.
"This is a brand new effort and a lot might change,"
Hand sanitizer is compounded for distribution to public agencies and nonprofits.
Current challenges include sourcing hydrogen peroxide and more bottles - possibly for both bulk and individual distribution. Jackson is ensuring that the recipes are FDA approved and that labeling is correct.
"We produced 50 gallons yesterday,"
said Sanders, and all but three were gone by close of business the following day. "We have demand for another 24 tomorrow, and it will keep coming."
Sanders said other business owners and members of the community have contributed funds as well.
The first batch was distributed (some in 5-gallon paint buckets) to Washington EMS, DSM and homeless shelters in Washington and Greenville, Collier said.
"We want to try and meet the local demand for hand sanitizer for the people who need to be out there interacting and who can't stay home - EMS and daycare, end of life care,"
Sanders said. "The goal is to keep people safe."
Hopefully, Collier said, the effort will provided a needed product for keeping health care and other public service professionals healthy. "Once public service needs are met, we will try to meet the demand of the public,"
"We have not been able to source small bottles that would be useful for public use, and once we are able to do so, we plan to offer hand sanitizer to the public at a reasonable price that will cover any overhead,"
The partnership reflects ECU's commitment to regional transformation, both in meeting the community's immediate needs and by helping provide a role for business owners and their employees sidelined by closures and the need for physical distancing.
Collaborative efforts like this are an example of how "social entrepreneurs are going to be one of the ways we make it back from the effects of COVID-19,"
said Dr. Sharon Paynter, vice chancellor for community engagement and research.