Bob Collins, a faculty member at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, learned from his father, a retired Texas state trooper, that social distancing is impossible for first responders.

The lesson from his father, a volunteer fire fighter, led Collins to do a little research about hand sanitizer. He looked around his lab in the Leonard Sandridge Science Center and noticed the lab had everything he needed to make hand sanitizer.

The compliance and safety officer for the natural sciences department decided to use the material to make hand sanitizer for as many first responder agencies near Wise as possible. As a result, Collins had enough to make 32 bottles, 200 milliliters each, of hand sanitizer that he and other volunteers distributed on March 25 to some agencies. The bottles can be used to refill smaller bottles the first responders likely carry around as they work.

“In the event of an emergency, we all depend on the fact that law enforcement and emergency services will put their well-being before ours,” Collins said. “I researched the materials needed on the World Health Organization website and found we possessed everything necessary.”

Collins said Professor Margie Tucker and Professor Robin Woodward, chair of the natural sciences department, were instrumental in making the project happen.

The first responders who will receive a share of the hand sanitizer include the town of Wise Police Department, Wise County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police office in Wise, and the Wise Fire Department.

Collins’ son Ryan, a UVA Wise student, is also helping by making face masks for first responders or residents of the local Heritage Hall nursing home who need the personal protection equipment.