WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — During the pandemic, personal protection equipment has become very hard to find. Masks and respirators get most of the national news, but that PPE also includes vital components like hand sanitizer which is used on the front line by first responders.
In Williamson County, first responders have teamed up with a local distillery to obtain alcohol, used as a hand sanitizer, a product that long ago sold off the shelves.
When Spring Hill Police ran out of hand sanitizer, and normal supply chains couldn’t keep up with the overwhelming demand, police knew they had a major problem.
“Our normal vendors gave first priority to hospitals and people who deal with hospitals. That’s understandable, that’s fine, but it left us out in the cold,” said Detective Mike Foster with Spring Hill Police.
It’s at that point that Spring Hill Police and Fire officials reached out to Leiper’s Fork Distillery for help.
Lee Kennedy is the president of the local distillery.
“I’ve always had a soft heart for first responders and vets,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy said when the coronavirus hit, he had to lay off nine of his 14 staff members. Most of these people were involved in the tourism part of his operation that gives tours of the grounds and the distillery.
Kennedy said he was shocked, unclear how to proceed. He started his business four years earlier, the whiskey aging in barrels. He said it was scheduled to be released by Thanksgiving 2020.
Then, he got a phone call from a medical facility asking if he could make hand sanitizer. Kennedy said he could, and he shifted from whiskey to Ethyl Alcohol in the middle of a production run.
Soon, he was approached by nursing homes and federal agencies and a large logistics corporation that purchased 600 gallons.
Kennedy said he was working 16 hours a day and has produced about 1000 gallons in a week. He said he is making enough money to keep the operation going, but he sells 70% alcohol at a very discounted price compared to the cost of the whiskey.
Then, Kennedy heard from Williamson County law enforcement and first responders. Kennedy began giving them alcohol for free.
“We’re trying to keep them safe while they are keeping us safe. and they’re interacting with more people. we’re all social distancing right now, but our first responders are still having to interact with people,” said Kennedy.
Spring Hill is one of those agencies that has benefited. Officers picked up gallons of the alcohol and then began transferring the cleanser to smaller bottles to be utilized by patrol officers.
“We really appreciate that, they didn’t have to do it. It is an essential part of our day to day stuff and we do come into contact with the public so we really did have to have it,” said Detective Foster.
“In times of crisis, it’s good for local biz to support our local community and government. At the end of the day, we are only as strong as our communities are,” said Kennedy.
“It was great for them to offer that to us because that sanitizer was not available anywhere,” said Spring Hill Fire Chief Terry Hood.
Other Williamson county agencies that have also received hand sanitizer include Franklin Police, Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, Williamson County Emergency Management and Fairview Fire Department.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.