May 28th, 2024

Local distiller changes course to produce hand sanitizer

By Jensen, Randy on April 22, 2020.

Black Velvet Distillery general manager and vice-president Claude Bilodeau and Heaven Hill Brands are producing hand sanitizer to support local first responders, government offices, seniors homes and community organizations. Submitted photo

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

Black Velvet Distillery and parent company Heaven Hill Brands are ramping up their efforts to help local organizations and frontline responders in Lethbridge and area get through the COVID-19 crisis in a safer way.

Black Velvet Distillery has transitioned part of its Lethbridge operations over to the production of hand sanitizer to support the health and safety of local first responders, government offices, seniors’ homes and community organizations.

“The City of Lethbridge reached out to me a few weeks ago through their procurement department, emphasizing the need they had for hand sanitizer, explains Claude Bilodeau, vice-president and general manager of Black Velvet Distillery. “It took us a little while to get the approvals from Health Canada to be able to produce. Now that we have that, we are operating full force.”

The company is producing an average of 300 cases of sanitizer daily, which works out to about 2,700 litres per day, and is donating the product free of charge in individual-sized 375-ml bottles.

Black Velvet has also hired six employees who had previously lost their jobs due to the economic effects of COVID-19 to create the sanitizer.

“We have actually hired six people who are immediate family members of our employees whose own jobs were affected by COVID-19,” explains Bilodeau. “And we are utilizing those people to produce hand sanitizer off to the side on one line by hand.”

Creating hand sanitizer as a derivative of their regular distilling processes is a natural way for Black Velvet Distillery to give back to help its home community and region, says Bilodeau.

“We exist in these communities and we are a part of this community,” he states. “And therefore it’s important to show how much we value the community.”

Besides the important donation of hand sanitizer, Black Velvet Distillery and its parent company Heaven Hill are also donating $10,000 to the United Way of Lethbridge and South Western Alberta to help with local COVID support efforts.

“Every employee here is proud of what we’re accomplishing,” confirms Bilodeau, “and we’re proud of our parent company for not only donating to the United Way and for hiring the family members of our employees, but also the ability to help the community.”

The $10,000 donation from Heaven Hill and Black Velvet will fund vital work, agrees local United Way marketing and communications co-ordinator Connolly Tate-Mitchell.

“At this time, when so many organizations are trying their best to respond to the effects of COVID-19, having those funds come in is going to be really critical for us,” she says. “The programs we are going to be able to support using those funds are going to be really helping a lot of people in the community to meet their basic needs.”

The money will be used to support outreach services for vulnerable members of the community who need extra home care support such as prescription drug or grocery delivery, Tate-Mitchell says. She is grateful to Black Velvet and other local companies who have stepped up in a big way to help and support the community in this time of crisis.

“Most of United Way’s donations come from individuals in their workplaces,” Tate-Mitchell explains. “So on the one hand some of those donations are dropping off because people aren’t working. But, in response, a lot of local companies are coming forward, like Heaven Hill brands and Black Velvet, to provide supports to local organizations like ours, and they are really kind of helping to replace those funds and help people out.”

For those community organizations needing hand sanitizer, they should email Claude Bilodeau at For those wishing to make a donation to the United Way’s COVID-19 response and recovery fund should visit

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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