The coronavirus pandemic has changed our everyday life, but it doesn't need to change who we are. So, in addition to our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus, OnMilwaukee will continue to report on cool, fun, inspiring and strange stories from our city and beyond. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed and stay joyful. We're all in this together. #InThisTogetherMKE
Earlier this month Milwaukee’s Twisted Path Distillery quietly joined the ever-growing ranks of American distillers turning their attention to making hand sanitizer and spray sanitizers.
Owner Brian Sammons is using a formula from the World Health Organization to make hand sanitizer and donating it to Waukesha’s Hebron Housing Services – among others – which operates three 24-hour-a-day homeless shelters that accommodate individuals and families: Juno House for women, children and families; Siena House for single men; and Jeremy House for those struggling with homelessness and mental illness.
"I started making it and reaching out to places in early March," says Sammons. "First places I gave it to were the Mercy House homeless shelter, then a nursing home a friend runs. (Also) The City of Wauwatosa; I sold it to them at cost in five-gallon buckets."
He also sent sanitizer to a hospice care company and the Amazon facility in Kenosha.
"I'll have a big batch bottled up later this week and so I'm taking orders now from similar places," he adds. "As well as post offices, shipping/trucking companies, etc."
Milwaukee's Central Standard is also making spray sanitizer to donate to area first responders and high-risk populations.
Sammons has a special connection to Hebron.
He and Hebron’s Executive Director Maureen Atwell were friends during law school and later were colleagues in the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office.
"That's what we do in a crisis," says Sammons. "We all do what we can to help."
Twisted Path is re-purposing 32-ounce hydrogen peroxide bottles and spirits bottles with corks for its hand sanitizing liquid.
"It isn't scented or moisturizing. It’s no frills, but it is proven effective," says Sammons. "As a distiller, I have the ingredients, which I bought in January when it was clear this was coming, and can respond quicker locally than the traditional supply chain.
"My hope is that the bigger producers are just a week or two away from scaling up and catching up, but I'll make all I can until they do, or I run out of supplies."
"With many people having nowhere to go in this time of crisis, we are running our shelters at maximum capacity. That requires more staff and more supplies, so having Twisted Path make and deliver bottles of hand sanitizer has been incredible," said Atwell, who left her family to move into Jeremy House last week to make herself available around the clock during this time of crisis.
Twisted Path Distillery has been supplying homeless shelters, nursing home and a local municipality, because these are essential and vulnerable services.
"It’s community-minded individuals, organizations like the United Way and companies like Twisted Path Distillery that are making a huge difference in how we can help the homeless at this time," said Atwell.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.