As high demand and hoarding dried up the supply of hand sanitizer, Spectrum Health struggled to secure enough for its hospitals and clinics amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

And then help arrived from a neighbor: Amway.

The Ada, Michigan-based company rushed production of a hand sanitizer and provided it at no cost to Spectrum Health.

“I was humbled. I was speechless,” said Kurt Knoth, vice president of the system supply chain for Spectrum Health. “I can’t believe how fortunate we are to have a community partner like Amway that is willing to step up and help out.

“They are a hometown hero.”

Amway is also providing hand sanitizer to its community partner, Kids’ Food Basket.

Amway’s quick and ready response—products will arrive at Spectrum Health less than a week after a request—could make a life-saving difference to patients and health care providers, Knoth said.

The idea to seek help from Amway came up only a week ago, when Knoth and other Spectrum Health officials discussed the dire shortage of hand sanitizer.

“We don’t have a stockpile. We are hand to mouth. We are barely keeping up with what we need,” Knoth said. “We are getting rationed from our national suppliers.”

Typically, Spectrum Health uses about 2,000 8-ounce bottles of hand sanitizers a month at its 300 locations. But that’s in normal times.

The spread of COVID-19 has vastly increased demand for hand sanitizer. Washing hands—and using sanitizer—are crucial in preventing transmission of the virus.

“It’s critical to keep our patients safe, and it’s critical for our staff,” Knoth said.

At the same time, consumer purchases—and in some cases, hoarding—helped drain the national supply.

Spectrum Health officials looked for new ways to meet the need for hand sanitizer.

Tina Freese-Decker, the president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Health, contacted senior leaders at Amway.

Although the company did not make hand sanitizer, Amway quickly embraced the idea.

On Thursday morning, March 12, the company created Project Light Speed to respond to the request. Within 24 hours, a cross-functional team of 40 Ada employees had a plan in place, said Troy Finnestad, manager of national accounts for Amway.

They drew on a formula they used when Amway produced a hand sanitizer for China in the early 2000s during the SARS epidemic.

Because natural ethanol is used in existing Amway products, the team was able to repurpose 9,000 gallons of ethanol they had on hand for the sanitizer. The team ordered another 8,000 gallons.

“All four of our manufacturing plants stepped up,” Finnestad said. “We had employees coming out saying, ‘How can we help? We want to be a part of this.’”

When he learned how eager Amway employees were to help produce the hand sanitizer, Knoth felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

“It almost made me cry,” he said. “They are volunteering to work 24/7 because they know how important this is.”

The plastics plant created the 400-milliliter pump bottles. The paper products plant printed a label custom-designed by Amway’s creative services team.

The personal care plant transferred equipment to the cosmetics plant, which mixed the hand gel and filled the bottles.

“In my 13 years at Amway, I have never seen something like Project Light Speed,” Finnestad said.

Employees came together and produced the first products in just three business days.

“It’s a great feeling from everyone involved—the energy, the excitement and the enthusiasm,” Finnestad said. “It really does reflect our people, our culture and our values here.”

Amway produced and shipped 14,000 bottles of hand sanitizer this week. It has ordered supplies to produce another 28,000 bottles and has contacted other local companies for help.

“Right now, the materials needed to make hand sanitizer are scarce,” Finnestad said.

Kids’ Food Basket will use its delivery of hand sanitizer as it prepares food bags for kids during the school shutdown, said Chief Executive Officer Bridget Clark Whitney.

The nonprofit organization, which provides meals to 9,000 children a day, relies on volunteers and staff to assembles the bags. Amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19, it took steps to to ensure the health and safety of its staff, volunteers and children they serve, such as limiting the number of people in the building.

“When this crisis began, we didn’t have stockpiles of hand sanitizer,” Whitney said. “We are very fortunate that Amway is giving us a strong supply of hand sanitizer so we can make sure the building stays as germ-free as possible.

“We are very excited about this and really grateful for this extraordinary gesture.”