SC company donates 6,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to essential workers

A company that used to make and sell body scrubs and lotions pivoted to focus on selling hand sanitizer, and is now giving back to the community.
Updated: May. 2, 2020 at 6:07 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - When workers are on the front line, they rarely have the time to step away to wash their hands dozens of times a day.

That’s why hand sanitizer is crucial to helping them stay safe.

But while nurse Carla McKenzie said hospitals have enough soap and other disinfecting solutions, getting hand sanitizer at work or in the stores is hit-or-miss.

“It’s not enough, we can’t find them,” McKenzie said.

Firefighters, law enforcement officials and first responders echoed what McKenzie was seeing in hospitals. They say they get a lot of donations and sometimes shipments come in, but it goes just as fast as it comes into their buildings.

“We’re trying our best to make sure we keep hand sanitizer, but you know….It’s just kind of hard to find right now,” Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said.

Jenkins encouraged his colleagues and firefighters across the Midlands to head to Bush River Road on Saturday to pick up a gallon or more of free, 80 percent alcohol, hand sanitizer.

There, Joanne Bolos and her team were giving away 6,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to any essential workers who wanted to drive by and get it.

“I saw online people were selling gallons for $125 a gallon. It’s ridiculous we are in the middle of a pandemic,” Bolos said. “We have a crisis. There is a shortage and people are paying it. So I knew we could manufacture it, we had all the wheels in place. Everything is already in motion.”

She is the owner of the Secret of the Islands, a company that used to make and sell body scrubs and lotions in South Carolina. However, a few weeks ago she quickly pivoted her business to focus on selling hand sanitizer.

Bolos was determined to sell it at a fair price, about $30 a gallon, which she says was the price for it before the COVID-19 pandemic.

But she wanted to take one day to thank and connect with her community. Standing at the front of her assembly line where her team was handing out and unpacking gallons of sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, she greeted as many people as she could and thanked them for their service.

For the people who took home a gallon or more of hand sanitizer, they said it didn’t just make them feel safer, but it helped them feel like they can keep their families safer.

“I have a calling as a nurse,” McKenzie said. “But I also have a duty and a responsibility as a mother, so that’s a fine line to walk.”

It’s a line she can now walk a bit easier, she said. Picking up the gallon of hand sanitizer she received, she said it is simply a blessing.

Bolos said she hopes to do another giveaway soon but she hasn’t made any plans at this time.

She is planning to send any extra hand sanitizer to nursing homes in the area.

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