Generosity rises from hard times

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

A donation of hand sanitizer may not have seemed like a big deal before. For a distillery, a senior center and a nonprofit, one donation brought them together June 16.

Energize Delaware, a state-created nonprofit that provides energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, donated 170, 4 oz.-bottles of hand sanitizer to the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.

Tony DePrima, executive director of Energize Delaware, said his group serves nonprofits like the Modern Maturity Center and was looking for a way to help. It has donated to other nonprofits like Mom’s House, a Dover child care center.

“I think every organization that can stand up and be a part of the solution should. That was our attitude,” DePrima said. “We had the resources to help and we wanted to help.”

Energize Delaware bought 500 bottles from easySpeak Spirits in Milford. Manager Zack King said the distillery started making hand sanitizer after recognizing a need as the pandemic started in March.

“We were trying to buy some for a family member in the hospital and trying to buy some to put at the restaurant here to make people more comfortable, and we couldn’t find any,” King said.

After gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration, easySpeak was making sanitizer for restaurants, but soon started getting requests from customers.

At first, the demand for sanitizer containers was so high they scrambled to find something to bottle the sanitizer in, using glass Mason jars at one point. They now offer 4 oz., 32 oz. and gallon sizes.

“It certainly kept income flowing during the downtime,” King said. “We did close the restaurant for a period of time because we couldn’t focus on doing takeout plus the hand sanitizer.”

Carolyn Fredricks, president and CEO of the Modern Maturity Center, said she hopes the bottles will help as people start coming back to the center for sit-down meals and classes July 1.

“We just want our people to feel safe when they come in here and this is just another level of protection for them,” Fredricks said.

The bottles will be on tables where people eat and by the doors. The dining room will be limited to 74 people. Everyone must make reservations, and they will be assigned an 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. lunch.

“They’re not going to be able to come and sit like they always have,” Fredricks said. “They’re going to come and have their meal, and they’re going to have to leave because we have to sanitize the tables for the next group.”

Grab-and-go lunches will still be on hand for those who don’t feel comfortable dining in yet.

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Energize Delaware

While hand sanitizers are a small way Energize Delaware is helping their neighbors, the organization is also helping people pay their utility bills.

With Catholic Charities, Energize Delaware created a $200,000 emergency fund to help people at risk of being disconnected. It will assist around 400 people with utility bill payments, such as electric, natural gas, propane and oil.

The emergency financial grant will be paid directly to the utility. Case managers will conduct a financial assessment interview.

To apply or learn more, visit, send an email to and/or call any Catholic Charities locations.

easySpeak Spirits

The demand for sanitizer has been dwindling, King said. If easySpeak Spirits runs out, they will make more, but he said they have a decent supply right now.

“It really depends on the pandemic,” he said. “We were kind of optimistic that habits and people would change after the first round of this pandemic and that people would continue to use it.”

The distillery has been donating it. If any nonptofit is interested, they can contact easySpeak on their website or Facebook.

In the meantime, the restaurant is open again, and King said business is starting to feel like normal.

“Some weeks are a little busier than usual. Some weeks are about the same,” he said. “It doesn’t seem that people are afraid to come out and everyone’s following the rules pretty well.”

Modern Maturity Center

Fredricks said people are so eager to get back to the Modern Maturity Center that they have been tailgating and line dancing in the parking lot.

“I’m ready to get started. I think my staff is ready to get started, and we just want to see everybody, [well], 74 everybodies, on July 1,” she said.

The center never fully shut down, continuing Meals on Wheels and keeping staff available by phone. Over the past few months, Fredricks said the community has shown up in full force.

For example, since the center canceled its dinner theater productions, staff asked if people were willing to donate what they normally would pay for a ticket. They raised $7,500. Others contacted the Modern Maturity Center to donate part of their stimulus checks.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Fredricks said.