CLARENCE CENTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – When the COVID-19 pandemic struck New York last March, hand sanitizer became tough to get a hold of.
To help out, many Western New York distilleries, including Clarence Center’s Uncle Jumbo’s, temporarily pivoted their operations to making sanitizer.
“For a good six weeks or two months, it was “go go go”,” Uncle Jumbo’s president Nick Kotrides said. “We stopped producing consumable alcohol and we started becoming a hand sanitizer company- enough to where the big boys had time to catch up and fill that market void.”
Now, the family distillery is back to making vodka and vodka products (including a newer line of ready-to-drink cocktails), but they’re still making hand sanitizer to lend a “hand” to FeedMore WNY.
Uncle Jumbo’s recently delivered about 20,000 bottles- or $100.000 worth of product- to the organization for their first sanitizer donation.
“They’re really making it possible for us to ensure the safety of our staff and volunteers, and the clients served by our member agencies,” said Catherine Shick, communications director for FeedMore WNY. “They will be distributed to our shelters, soup kitchens, and group homes to make sure that the people who are relying on them for food can make sure that they’re safe and healthy.”
FeedMore needs the help right now- due to the pandemic, need is greater than ever.
“Just to put it in perspective, in 2020, FeedMore WNY provided enough food for 16 million meals across the four counties we serve- that’s 4 million more in 2020 versus 2019,” Shick added.
Uncle Jumbo’s has been making vodka out of Western New York-grown corn for the past four years. They’ve gotten creative with their products in that time, including a new one called “Spicy Jumbini”- a vodka with pepperoncini and stuffed olives, perfect for martinis and Bloody Marys.
The distillery gets its name from U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who once served as mayor of Buffalo.
“His hunting cabin was right around the corner, and his nickname was ‘Uncle Jumbo’,” Kotrides said.
Kotrides says he plans on the distillery hosting a fundraiser for FeedMore WNY as soon as they’re allowed to.
“All of the great news that we’re doing with Uncle Jumbo’s and the company growing- what we were able to do with FeedMore is our biggest accomplishment,” Kotrides said.
FeedMore WNY can use donations of food, funds, or time (through volunteering). If you are interested in donating or need to utilize the organization’s services, call (716) 822-2002 or click here.
Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.