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Published On: April 8th, 2020|835 words|2.9 min read|
Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.
Chad Butters is an Army Veteran who turned his alcohol distillery into a hand sanitizer production line following the coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak.
After spending 25 years in the Army as a helicopter pilot, Butters started his business in 2015. Nestled in the hills of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery grows corn, wheat, rye and barley. The company then turns those crops into bourbon, gin, rye whiskey and other alcohols. All that changed once Butters started seeing price gouging for hand sanitizer–$320 an ounce.
“And that’s where I was like, ‘Okay, this is ridiculous,'” Butters said. “Hand sanitizer is nothing more than high-proof alcohol and a couple other small ingredients and that’s it. I think we can make it. We just made the decision right then and there that we would do whatever it took to make hand sanitizer.”
In his 25 years flying–especially in places like Somalia and Afghanistan–Butters knew that he could make a difference, and he did what he felt was right. He called it a “moment in time,” to use the company’s assets, resources, equipment and plant to take action.
“Our vision, mission and values of our company are really just at the heart of everything we do: be a positive impact on the community,” Butters said.
On a Sunday night in mid-March, Butters announced his company would switch manufacturing to make up for a national shortage of hand sanitizer. He shut down his distillery’s sales to focus all resources on hand sanitizer.
He said alcohol normally takes about a week to go from grain to glass. The company had to add hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, the two other ingredients for hand sanitizer. Using guidance from the World Health Organization, Eight Oaks Farm Distillery made 5,000 bottles. Through donations, the company distributed the bottles for free to help make up for the critical shortage. Butters said the company is ramping up production to 12,000-15,000 bottles per day. They are focusing on getting the bottles to health care workers, coronavirus testing and treatment sites, and first responders.
The company received so much monetary donations that they continue to generate bottles for free. Butters said these bottles are free to agencies who can’t afford them otherwise and that other companies are purchasing cases to continue the project.
Vantage Point, VA’s official blog, has transitioned to VA News. For the latest in VA news and information, visit the new site at news.va.gov and update your bookmarks. Vantage Point is no longer being updated.