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Features

Spirited outpouring of support as local distillery makes hand sanitizer for first responders

Flanked by whiskey barrels, Rush Creek Distilling co-owners are Jeff McCarthy (clockwise from front), Todd Stricker, Jay Nolan and Mark Stricker.
Flanked by whiskey barrels, Rush Creek Distilling co-owners are Jeff McCarthy (clockwise from front), Todd Stricker, Jay Nolan and Mark Stricker.

Along with the whiskey, vodka and gin it usually produces, Rush Creek Distilling in Harvard has started making hand sanitizer for first responders.

Mark Stricker, one of the partners at Rush Creek Distilling, said they got the idea from other distillers in the area who began making hand sanitizer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We thought it was a great idea,” Stricker said. “We can get something to first responders, to people who are charged with keeping us safe; let's keep them safe.”

Because there is a short supply, the FDA issued a policy allowing distilleries to make alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Stricker said Rush Creek is following the guidelines of the FDA and World Health Organization. The solution it uses contains rubbing alcohol, ethanol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and distilled water.

“We put it all in a tank and mix it up and wait until … all the molecules combine, which is suggested for up to 72 hours,” Stricker said. “Then we bottle it from that point. It's very specific; it's a higher alcohol content than what you buy in the store.”

Store-bought hand sanitizer is often 60% alcohol by volume; Rush Creek Distilling’s is more than 80%.

Rush Creek’s objective is to get sanitizer to as many first responders as it can.

Stricker said they have taken donations from local businesses, who have supplied them with raw materials. Pedigree Ovens and Consolidated Container Company, both in Harvard, have both been good to the distillery, he said. Copy Express, in Woodstock, also supplied them with hand sanitizer labels.

“It’s heartwarming,” Stricker said. “When I reach out for containers to put this stuff in, I've got a great response. … Everybody’s trying to do the same thing, the right thing.”

In addition, their customers have been very generous, Stricker added.

“It's been great,” Stricker said. “When I reached out to people, they are actually making calls on my behalf to find some of these things.”

Rush Creek Distilling cannot ship the product, because it is highly flammable, so first responders have to come to the store and pick it up.

Local departments that have gotten some of Rush Creek’s hand sanitizer include Marengo and Union's police and fire personnel, and police in Crystal Lake, Woodstock and Lakemoor.

“It’s a pretty long list,” Stricker said.

Their reach has extended even farther than Illinois, with Rush Creek supplying sanitizer to police and fire departments in Wisconsin.

“I suppose there’s just a shortage of [hand sanitizer],” Stricker said. “People are using it more because of the coronavirus. It's just human nature I guess: get as much as you can.”

Being considered an essential business, Rush Creek Distilling at 1501 W. Diggins St. still is able to open weekends, but not its tasting rooms, and has limited hours from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (rushcreekdistilling.com).

The distillery is giving away 4-ounce containers to customers for free, with a limit of two at a time.

“When they come in, they come and pick up a couple bottles … they'll throw some money in the donation bucket,” Stricker said. “People are supporting us, so that's nice. People have been stopping by, picking up their essential relax-time spirits, and grabbing a bottle of hand sanitizer to stay safe.”

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