There is a saying that necessity is the mother of invention, but for a family-run micro-distillery in East Stroudsburg, motherhood was the necessity.
Abby Riggleman, manages the East Stroudsburg facility for Silverback Distillery, while her sister manages a second distillery in Virginia. Both are pregnant. Neither could find hand sanitizer as stocks at area grocery stores and pharmacies became quickly depleted by the spread of COVID-19.
“This happened so we would both be protected,” said Riggleman.
Already making the main ingredient – alcohol – they decided they would make their own hand sanitizer. Plus, they had already heard of other micro-distilleries in Pennsylvania doing it, including Eight Oaks Distillery in New Tripoli.
“Then we heard that Monroe County Meals on Wheels was in need of hand sanitizer,” she said.
They decided to ramp up production of their handmade hand sanitizer so they could help that organization and any others that’s might need the product, and put out word that they’d donate their hand sanitizer to nonprofits that needed it.
“We thought we’d get a few responses,” she said.
Currently, they have a list of more than 100 organizations seeking their help.
“This has blown up,” she said. “People are in desperate need. It’s insane.”
Eight Oaks saw a similar response. In Facebook post, the distillery said it began donating hand sanitizer to the public on Friday, and while they expected a large response, it became even larger than expected and they had to stop in-person donations.
“Our first priority is the safety of our crew and community, and especially given the health state the country is in, and we don’t think it’s socially responsible to continue getting it out in person,” the distiller said.
Eight Oaks is looking at better ways to get the product where it’s needed and is still making donations to organizations.
At Silverback, Riggleman said one of the biggest hurdles they’ve had to overcome is getting all of the supplies they need.
While they had the alcohol, coming up with other ingredients, like hydrogen peroxide, and even bottles and labels for hand sanitizer proved to be a bit more of a challenge, and expensive.
They’ve had some help from other businesses.
When they couldn’t get enough small bottles for the hand sanitizer, Pocono Brewing Co. offered to can it for them so it could be distributed to organizations in need that can then transfer the sanitizer into their own bottles.
The distillery started a Go Fund Me page to ask for donations to help pay for the materials they needed to get the product to those organizations that need it the most. Those looking to help can also email her directly at email@example.com.
And yes, Riggleman said her family are still concerned about making payroll as it stops production of its spirits, but that isn’t her first priority now. She knows they will eventually be able to go back to making spirits and in the meantime they have existing stock to sell online.
“Though closing our tasting room did hurt us,”’ she said.
Also, once they get the hand sanitizer to the organizations in need, she said they will also be able to start making bottles to sell to the public. That will hopefully help them earn some money. But that, she said, is for later.
“We’re at pinpoint focus right now trying to get it where it’s most needed,” she said. “We’re going to figure it out. It’s worth it if it saves a life.”