Community Profile / distilling / Food and Beverage / News / People
When it comes to helping others, our region has no borders. Claude Bilodeau, Vice President and General Manager at the Black Velvet Distilling Company, is a man who cares deeply about the safety of the people around him. Black Velvet was founded in Lethbridge in 1973 with a mission to make great Canadian whiskey and to support their community.
Claude considers not only Lethbridge to be a part of that, but also Medicine Hat and all of Southern Alberta. With the onset of COVID-19, Black Velvet Distilling Company immediately began to think of ways to help. One way they settled on was to begin producing hand sanitizer for the community at large. The team at Black Velvet reached out to Cal Kowskowich, Industrial Technology Advisor for the National Research Council for Southern Alberta, to help enable their company to convert from distilling alcohol to making hand sanitizer.
Through this process, Claude made his intentions to donate back to the community known to Cal, as he was inspired by stories like that of Medicine Hat’s own Grit City Distillery. Cal knew just who to call, reaching out to Invest Medicine Hat’s own Investor Services Coordinator, Tracy Stroud.
Tracy contacted Shona Dickie, Superintendent of Community Support Services in the Community who reminded Tracy of PPE Medicine Hat- a local volunteer group and the great work they were doing making masks and making donations to front line workers in need of PPE. When Claude was told of the group and their intentions he immediately hopped on board, reaching out to the group’s founder, Kristine Russell.
By 4 PM that day, Kristine was notified of Claude’s intentions to donate and was contacted by him at 9 AM the next morning. By 10 AM, Claude had packed up his half-ton with over 500L of Black Velvet Distiller Hand Sanitizer and was making his way to Medicine Hat to drop it off. As for why? Claude had this to say:
“We’re just trying to help. We are so fortunate with the parent company we have being Heaven Hills- a family owned company that has been in existence for 85 years, and they are such strong supporters of their communities that it is an absolute pleasure to be a part of that.”
PPE Medicine Hat founder, Kristine Russell, was blown away by Claude, and Black Velvet Distilleries generosity. When Claude rolled up and his truck loaded with over 500L of sanitizer packaged in mickey bottles all labelled, branded, encased in boxes and sealed, she felt she didn’t even know how to thank him properly. Black Velvet took no money for transport, a gesture completely out of the goodness of their hearts.
In times of great need, it has been heartwarming to see the community come together from every level. With the collaboration of government, volunteers, and generous businesses like Black Velvet Distilleries and Grit City Distilleries, Medicine Hat and all our frontline workers have truly benefitted.
The sanitizer will be going to Community Housing, The Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter, Miywasin Friendship Centre, frontline workers in the community, and other community organizations in need via PPE Medicine Hat.
PPE Medicine Hat can be found on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PPEMedicineHat/
For more information on Black Velvet Distillery, visit https://www.facebook.com/blackvelvet/