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Meet the Innovators: Feeding those in need and sanitizing Columbus

Mitch Hooper

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While searching for Columbus’ helpers, we found that they come in many different shapes and sizes. And this month, we are telling as many of their stories as we can. These are the stories of the innovators taking the resources they have and finding a way to make the most of it. They are helping those out in need, whether that be restaurant servers or EMT workers.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

Matt Heaggans, Service! Relief Effort

When the COVID-19 outbreak hit Ohio and the city watched as many bars and restaurants closed indefinitely, Matt Heaggans and his team asked: how could they best help out?

Between himself and Catie Randazzo, both chefs and co-founders of Muse Hospitality which operates restaurants such as Preston’s and Ambrose & Eve, they had first-hand accounts of how this was impacting servers, bartenders, and all the like. Folks, to put it bluntly, are out-of-work and looking for a new means of financial stability as they face the waves of struggles in filing for unemployment. And life doesn’t slow down, either; rent is still due, bills still need paid, and food still has to find its way onto tables.

Through methodic planning, connections throughout the city, and more restaurant owners hopping aboard, Service! was born. This relief effort has a two-prong goal; provide 400 meals a day, seven days a week to servers and bartenders in-need, and open up an income opportunity for those preparing these meals, distributing the meals, and delivering the meals.

“We recognize that we are going to be coming into a phase here where a lot of people are going to need a lot of help,” said Heaggans.

“The thing we’re good at is feeding people so we felt like that was the best way we could make the biggest impact. […] It’s feeding people, that’s the thing. That’s the core concept we’ve all chosen to be a part of is taking care of people with food.”

Now, Service! operates on a complex level to stay in line with social distancing orders. A central kitchen cooks and prepares all the meals so that when they arrive to a server or bartender at home, all they have to do is pop it in the microwave and heat it up. But, before the food can make it to the door of those in-need, Service! has set up a distribution system where meals are transported to a pick-up and delivery center where more folks will work to either hand-deliver meals, or prepare the meals for scheduled pick-up.

And while Service! is feeding those in-need, it also has a third goal: bring awareness to the plight of small businesses.

“When we come out on the other side of [this], we’re going to all be seeking some sense of normalcy and a lot of the things that make us feel normal are in danger right now,” Heaggans said. “We work in small businesses, we work with people that we care about. We’re always making sure people have the time off they need, or providing raises when we can. We go through life situations with people—when they are sick, or they lose people in their family, or they have kids. We are right there with them going through those things as well. We have a vested interest in making sure those people are okay because we care about them deeply.”

Visit Service! Relief Effort online

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Ryan Lang, Co-Founder and Head Distiller Of Middle West Spirits

It’s a bit of a roll of the dice when you go to the grocery store these days. Lists posted on the door usually detail the numerous things they are currently out of stock of; toilet paper, disinfectant spray, and of course, hand sanitizer. It makes sense, too. Hand washing has been repeated time and time again as one of the best ways to stay safe during COVID-19 so the demand for things like sanitizer is up.

But what about the supply? That’s where Ryan Lang, co-founder and head distiller, and Middle West Spirits come in.

“We’ve always used our excess alcohol for cleaning surfaces and sanitizing hoses, so we ask ourselves how we might scale our own efforts to meet the need here in our own community,” Lang said. 

It took more than a month of planning to execute and they faced challenges throughout the process of getting approved to produce sanitizer. The World Health Organization approved a recipe that raised the alcohol base of hand sanitizers to 80 percent forcing Lang to begin establishing partnerships with regional distilleries who would send them fuel ethanol for additional distilling at Middle West. The result was an approved sanitizer, complete with a Middle West label.

“By mid-April, we’ve produced nearly 100,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, with about half of those going to first responders, shelters, and other community safety-net programs free of charge,” Lang explained. “As our production has ramped, we’ve been able to take some of this inventory and sell it by the case directly to the general public via an online store—a game changer in getting a low-cost sanitizer into the hands of consumers that have been unable to source sanitizer from traditional channels.”

Getting to the point of being able to produce 15,000 bottles a day—with the capacity to grow into 20,000 a day if needed—is a feat that took a team effort. Lang said his team worked tirelessly to get this off the ground. The Columbus Foundation also pitched in, as well as state and local officials to best get this product out to those in need.

“The Columbus Foundation stepped up and told us to just get going and that we would figure it out later,” Lang said. “We did the same internally with our team; ‘just get it done’ was the sense we all shared. We didn’t question the costs at the time, just the sourcing of hard to come by materials to make the sanitizer for our city.”

Visit Middle West Spirits online

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Arts & Culture

Weekend Roundup: 5/29 – 5/31

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With Ohio slowly starting to fully reopen, initial in-person gatherings have trickled into our news feeds.

Below are a few things you can check out over the weekend if you’ve been itching to leave your house and are capable of following COVID-19 guidelines.

Friday

Fair Food Weekend @ Oakland Nursery

One of the most disappointing summertime cancellations was the axing of the Ohio State Fair. For those still wanting to get their elephant ears or deep-fried oreo fix, Chester Foods will be bringing a pop-up food truck to the Oakland Nursery. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried oreos, fresh-cut fries, and lemonade shake-ups will all be on the menu. Fair food will be set up on both Friday and Saturday.

Time: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. | Address: 4261 W. Dublin Granville Rd.

Saturday

Sonic The Hedgehog/Jumanji: The Next Level and The Hunt/The Invisible Man @ South Drive-In

With movie theaters in Ohio still closing their doors, the drive-in revival has been sweeping the state, nation, and world. Once drive-ins were given the go-ahead by DeWine, South Drive-In began to provide the double feature experience to eager moviegoers. Admission is $9.50 on Friday/Saturday and $7.50 on Sunday for those 12+, $2 for ages 5-11, and free for those under 4.

The showings for this weekend are as follows: 

Screen 1:

  • 9:05 p.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
  • 10:53 p.m. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
  • 12:56 a.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (Friday/Saturday only) 

Screen 2:

  • 9:25 p.m. The Hunt (R)
  • 11:05 p.m. The Invisible Man (R)
  • 1:09 a.m. The Hunt (Friday/Saturday only)

Check out the South Drive-In website to see what social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Time: Arrive 1-2 hours prior to first showing | Address: 3050 S. High St.

Sunday

Reggae on the Patio @ Skully’s Music-Diner

If you’re in search of a relaxing Sunday, look no further than Skully’s. The music venue/bar will be opening its patio for those to have socially distance hangs, drinks, and wings. Skully’s will be setting the mood perfectly for a chill Sunday by spinning reggae music all night long. Get yourself out of the house and go catch some island vibes.

Time: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. | Address: 1151 N. High St.

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Community

No excuses: Former 10TV meteorologist sentenced on child porn charges

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Back in September of 2019, former 10TV meteorologist Mike Davis was arrested on child pornography charges. The trial, which began in January, was wrapped up on Thursday.

Davis was sentenced to a minimum of four years after pleading guilty to possessing child porn, according to ABC 6.

After being tipped off in August of 2019 by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, it was found that Davis had uploaded almost 16,000 child pornography images. It was also discovered that Davis was sending the images to himself via a Yahoo! Account.

He will be required to register as a Tier II Sex Offender for 25 years. Davis could serve up to six years.

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Gallery: George Floyd Columbus protests: Thursday, May 28

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Photos by John Thorne

Columbus responded to the death of 46-year-old George Floyd with protests across town Thursday night. Floyd died after a Minneapolis officer dug his knee into Floyd’s neck on May 25. Floyd, an African American, told police that he couldn’t breathe multiple times.

His death comes just after three months after the unarmed shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, an African-American, Georgia man who was out for a jog.

Over the past three days, protests have been erupting in Minneapolis and major cities across the country such as Denver and New York. Thursday evenings were the first reported protests in Columbus.

Protests began peacefully around 7 p.m with protestors moving down Long Street chanting, “Say his name,” in reference to Floyd.

Reports say, around 9:45 p.m., objects were thrown at police officers. Teargas was dispersed 15 minutes later, and the crowd of protestors began to disperse around 10:20 p.m. Within an hour, the protests picked back up.

The protests produced damage to several businesses, including the Ohio Statehouse and Ohio Theater. Nearing 2 a.m., several downtown streets were still blocked off.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin were quick to comment:

Another protest is scheduled for this Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon at the Ohio Statehouse.

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