CAYCE, S.C. — A Cayce distillery is making hand sanitizer to help support local first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.
John and Venetia Sharpe own Southern Essence Distilling in Cayce off of Frink Street. It's located near the heart of the Cayce Art District and the southern end of State Street. Their business is closed to the public during the coronavirus situation at this time.
They've been making spirits for the last two years and just recently expanded to making vodka.
"Until the coronavirus got started, we were making liquor," said Venetia. "We were able to quickly turn around and make hand sanitizer."
The Sharpes say the TTB, otherwise known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau, told distilleries they would be allow to make hand sanitizer without having to go through paperwork like they typically would do if they started something new.
This gave Southern Essence Distilling an idea to who they should give their hand sanitizer to.
"We've been providing alcohol to the public safety officers because we feel like we need to protect those who protect us," explained Venetia.
The Sharpes have been following the World Health Organization's recipe. This means the distillery has to use a higher grade alcohol than you would be using if you were drinking it. They're using things like glycerin and hydrogen peroxide to make the hand sanitizer.
The Sharpes say it's been difficult to find some of the items they need because of their limited availability at stores.
"I've hit up every family member, every neighbor, anybody that we've talked to, 'Do you have any hydrogen peroxide that's unopened?'," said Venetia. "We've gathered as much as we can. I was finally able order some but it won't be here until early next week."
In a week or so, they will be needing to get corn and sugar to help make the hand sanitizer.
Southern Essence Distilling says they'll spend the rest of Monday making as much hand sanitizer as they can until the shipment comes in next week. That will equal eight to ten gallons of hand sanitizer.
So far they've given 200 bottles to the Cayce Department of Public Safety, 200 bottles to the Richland County Sheriff's Office, 25 bottles to a local organization, and the Springdale Police Department. They're hoping to make more for West Columbia first responders and Lexington County.
The distillery has been paying money out of their own pocket for the bottles the hand sanitizer will come in. Once they run on, they hope to give department bulk bottles so they can refill other bottles.
"Those of us in the general community have a choice, do we shelter in place or do we go out? We have that choice, it's a luxury that we have. Even when they tell us that we need to quarantine ourselves for 14 days, we still have the choice to stay home or go to the grocery store or go out and get something to eat," explained Venetia. "Our law enforcement doesn't have that choice. Fire responders don't have that choice. They have to be out there no matter what."
The Sharpes say they're a military family and feel the need to do something whenever there's a crisis.
"If they don't have it to protect themselves, they can't protect us very well because if they get sick, who's going to pick up the baton and run with it? So we have to protect those who protect us," said Venetia.
"We can do something, so we are doing something," said John.
If you know someone or a group who's helping others during the coronavirus pandemic, email firstname.lastname@example.org.