Once commonly found in every retail store across America, hand sanitizer has become one of the most difficult commodities to buy thanks to COVID-19. This has been especially troubling to front line essential workers who don’t have immediate and frequent access to soap and water.
Vinton County native Tom Faris saw a need for hand sanitizer and decided to do something about it. Faris is a chemist who owns Vampire Optical Coatings in Pataskala. For the last seventeen years, the business has made films that control the reflection of light. In doing so, Vampire Optical has a 275 gallon stainless steel mixer and access to commercial quantities of ingredients, providing opportunity to make a great deal of money off this high demand product.
Instead, he made a large batch and gave it away.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Faris said. “This is going to sound silly but I was contacted by someone who wanted me to help them get the supplies to make a bunch of hand sanitizer and charge an ungodly rate for it. And it made me mad so I decided to make it and do the exact opposite. I gave it away.”
At first, Tom said he wasn’t convinced the hand sanitizer shortage was as bad as the media made it sound. But after talking with a neighbor who is a Licking County Sheriff’s Deputy and to his mother, an Administrative Assistant at the Vinton County Sheriff’s Department, he learned there was a dire need for the product among first responders around the region.
So he set about making and bottling 200 gallons of hand sanitizer. Some went to sheriff’s departments in Franklin, Licking, Muskingum and Fairfield counties. The rest, his mother Lottie Faris carried back to southern Ohio for distribution where it was needed. She got it out to police and sheriff’s departments in Jackson, Gallia, Meigs, Athens and Ross counties as well as in Vinton County where it went to cops, EMS, fire departments, the nursing home, and even to Vinton County National Bank.
McArthur Branch Manager Jeremy Robson expressed his gratitude to Tom and Lottie. “With our retailers having limited supplies, we were fortunate to have been given the sanitizer. Cash is dirty and we make every effort to keep our employees safe so it was a great relief,” he said. “We are grateful to have been thought of as a place to donate to and I know all the other places that benefited from his generosity are grateful too.”
Lottie said that she has heard nothing but kind words and thanks. “As I was calling around to the sheriff’s offices in the area, they were so grateful to get it and several offered to pay. We just wanted to get it out to as many places as we could to slow the spread of the virus,” she said. “When Tom thought about someone else price gouging to get ahead, well that’s not how he was raised and he just wanted to donate and give back instead.”
The 1989 Vinton County High School graduate grew up at Creola and studied chemistry at Ohio University. He said that he was glad to help and downplayed his efforts. “It took about five hours to make and bottle it all. Just a half day’s work so it wasn’t too bad,” he explained. “I think it has given people peace of mind.”
He did make a second batch which he has sold to businesses like VCNB at cost.
Thanks to Tom and Vampire Optical for their generosity and kindness and to Lottie for her hard work as well. We appreciate what you have done to keep our employees and customers safe! Click here to learn more about Vampire Optical.