[Sometimes] It takes distillers, brewers, “spirited” patriots, and Dollar Tree

Yes, adversity reveals character.  Adversity also reveals ingenuity and talent. Consider the distillers and brewers across the country that quickly pivoted to using alcohol supplies to produce hand sanitizer in response to shortages caused by the corona virus pandemic.

Here in Virginia the call for hand sanitizer was answered for Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center in Richmond when some board members of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation (VWMF) worked together on this important mission. Here’s the sequence of events and how the plan unfolded:

In response to Governor Northam’s Executive Order 51 regarding COVID-19, Virginia ABC board issued an emergency order, authorizing Virginia distillers to manufacture and distribute alcohol-based sanitizer. The Vanguard Brewpub and Distillery in Hampton jumped at the opportunity and began sourcing ingredients specified by the World Health Organization recipe. After finding reliable supplies of hydrogen peroxide and glycerin, sourcing other materials that could be distilled into purified alcohol became the challenge.

That’s when VWMF Board member Kathy P. Owens, a partner at The Vanguard, reached out to fellow VWMF Board member Bob Archer, President of Blue Ridge Beverage Co., located in Salem with a request to acquire expired beer in order to distill it into alcohol for the sanitizer. Mr. Archer connected Ms. Owens with Ryland Thomas at Tri-Cities Beverage Co., in Newport News.  Mr. Thomas was quick to identify more than 1,000 kegs of expired beer in his warehouse. Former Virginia War Memorial board member and Virginia State Senator Bill DeSteph was instrumental in working with Virginia ABC officials for an accelerated approval of the transfer and, within a week, The Vanguard was converting the expired product into purified alcohol for the sanitizer.

The Vanguard also provides direct-to-consumer sales of sanitizer in an array of various-sized spray bottles. Dollar Tree stores had the best quality and selection of sizes and the Vanguard staff spent weeks visiting local Dollar Trees, depleting their stocks. This somewhat inefficient procurement process resulted in sporadic availability to local consumers, hospitals, health care facilities, and first responders.  Ms. Owens then reached out to her friend and U.S. Navy colleague, Bob Gantt, Vice President of Facilities and Special Projects at Dollar Tree.  She pleaded  Vanguard’s case for a bulk purchase of bottles.  Mr. Gantt immediately found a solution and was able to coordinate a bulk order with speedy fulfillment. The Vanguard now has a steady supply of spray sanitizer for the community, thanks to their friends at Dollar Tree.

In appreciation for their assistance in making this possible, The Vanguard donated four gallons of sanitizer to the Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center, one each on behalf of Senator Bill DeSteph, Bob Archer, Tri-Cities Beverage Co., and Dollar Tree.

I relate this story because it is another example of how this Foundation works in traditional and non-traditional ways to honor our state’s veterans.  Indeed, there are many ways in which character, ingenuity and talent can overcome adversity.


By Pam Seay, President of the Virginia War Memorial Foundation