Gulfport, Miss., Local 903 Training Director Dennis Weiland was part of a team at the local improvised a series of solutions to staying safe during the COVID pandemic.

Part of responding in an emergency is working though the crisis with what you have, even though that often looks nothing like what you need.

The local handed out the hand sanitizer and homemade mask, here being packed by President and Assistant Business Manager Luke Newman.
When Business Manager Brian McMurry sourced locally produced hand sanitizer from a local moonshine distillery, the only containers he could find were more familiar from backyard barbecues than public safety videos.

“With many members of Gulfport, Miss., Local 903 still working, keeping their families safe requires a plentiful supply of hand sanitizer. And that’s proven hard to find and expensive in many places, including Mississippi.

So, Business Manager Brian McMurry and the local’s executive board voted to use some of the local’s general fund to buy eight 5-gallon buckets from a local whiskey and moonshine distillery that had switched its production line from booze to the disinfectant.

Now they had more than enough sanitizer for the membership but had to figure out how to get it to them.

“We looked everywhere for squeeze bottles. We couldn’t find them,” McMurry said.

While a skilled craftsman knows the value of the right tool, a clever one gets the job done no matter what. So, that’s just what McMurry and his team did.

What they could find, and lots of them, were the staple red Solo cups. Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t that much demand for the official cup of every cheap bar and backyard BBQ when every bar was closed and every backyard was a private club.

That’s when McMurry and his skeleton staff improvised to get the job done. They measured out the gallons into 12 oz portions, sealed them with plastic wrap and covered them with a lid. Then they put out the word to the membership and the families of members who might be traveling to swing by the local Saturday morning.

McMurry and some volunteers put on gloves and their homemade masks and handed out more than 100 cups as the Local 903 extended family rolled through the parking lot.

“Many of the members asked about the masks, which is something me and my daughter were making. Just small quantities, but it gave me the idea to make a large amount to give out,” he said. “Now we have two sewing machines going here at the hall.”

Hard times require quick thinking said Fifth District International Vice President Brian Thompson.

“It is a true testament what our leaders our members and even their families are all about in the IBEW to see the resourcefulness to keep our members safe,” he said. “I am very proud of Local 903 leadership. The kindness they are showing is unmatched.”

McMurry expects to be out giving away masks, sealed in Ziploc bags, with the cups of sanitizer this coming Saturday.