WASHINGTON: Today Compass Coffee announced that it has donated 2,600 bottles of hand sanitizer to DC Public Schools across the District, supporting the community, students, teachers, and staff as they transition back to in-person learning.
“We’re really proud to be able to help teachers and students at DCPS as they begin in-person education,” said Chas Newman, Production Manager for Compass. “It's been a hard year for us all, but maybe most so for teachers. We’re glad to do our part to make things just a little bit easier for them and their students.”
“At the start of the pandemic, it became clear early on that we would not be able to keep our downtown cafés open,” said Max Deem, VP of Operations. ”Our customers simply weren’t there. As we pivoted to create work for as many people as possible, we decided to repurpose our production facility from making in-house syrups to making hand sanitizer for the DC government and first responders. From Baristas to Supervisors to Café Managers, our team came together to learn entirely new skills, and create a product that was in desperately short supply.”
Newman, who ran the development, sourcing, and production of the sanitizer, described the dramatic transition and search for new ingredients against the backdrop of global uncertainty.
“At the time that we began developing the product, it was a really unsettling time,” Newman said. “People didn't feel safe being out in the world, grocery shelves were empty, and a lot of the things we took for granted were no longer such sureties. Hand sanitizer wasn't necessarily something we planned to make, but when Mayor Muriel Bowser asked us to try and help address the city’s hand sanitizer shortage we were excited to do our part.”
Completely shifting gears to make hand sanitizer was a team effort, and a project the staff was excited to undertake as it relates to one of Compass’s core values: Build Your City.
“Overnight we transitioned our bottling line from producing vanilla syrup to World Health Organization (WHO) formulated hand sanitizer,” Newman said. “The search for Isopropyl Alcohol and other chemicals became a big part of my job, and some of our cafe managers began helping me on the bottling line, churning out bottles as fast as we could find the ingredients. At a time when many felt helpless to a disease no one understood, it was empowering to at least be fighting back in our own small way.”
Serving the community through manufacturing hand sanitizer also meant that Compass was able to deliver on another priority: innovatively creating jobs.
“It was also very motivating to get to be the first part of the company to rehire staff members that had been laid off because of the pandemic to help with production,” Newman said. “Within a few days we were already back on our path to rebuilding.”
During those weeks, making hand sanitizer for first responders was grounding and reassuring—for the Compass staff and for the community we serve.