Brewery co-owner Kerrie Abba has been inundated with thank-you notes from locals, but this time it’s not for the taste of her craft brews. After Nomad Brewery Co. made a one-off batch of hand sanitiser, Kerrie has been giving it away to those on Sydney’s tight-knit northern beaches community who need it most … even as her business battles to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
One elderly woman, whose husband is undergoing home-based chemotherapy for liver cancer, recently sent Kerrie a touching email, thanking her for her generosity.
She wrote: “I just want to thank you for your generous gift to people like us who can’t get out – and especially can’t get hand sanitiser … to us [it’s] more important than toilet paper. When things are going tough for businesses, you still have reached out to the community – thank you. Congratulations, the Nomad team – be very proud of yourselves.”
The first inkling Kerrie had that hand sanitiser was like liquid gold in our COVID-19 world, she was outside a supermarket. “A friend was lining up, desperate to buy sanitiser for her elderly parents,” she says. “I told her that we’d just made some at the brewery and to pop on over and grab some if she wanted.”
Then Kerrie spoke to her own father, who was also in urgent need of hand sanitiser. “It was clear there was a real shortage. I thought what I’d do is offer it for free to people who are really in need – the elderly and people with a disability. Not as a commercial exercise – it was just to try and help people get by until supplies became available again.”
With alcohol normally used to sanitise Nomad’s equipment, the team made a 50-litre batch of hand sanitiser for staff. Soon Kerrie was deluged with people wanting some for themselves or their parents or those unable to leave their homes. She invited anyone in need to come along and fill a small container.
“Help is about providing those little acts of kindness that try and get us back to that sense of normality, so we can all keep carrying on,” she says.
The toughest of times
Not that life has been easy for Kerrie and her Brookvale-based boutique brew business. Like all operations that rely on the hospitality industry, Nomad has been hit hard by the enforced closure of pubs, clubs and entertainment venues. In the blink of an eye, 80 per cent of the company’s income evaporated.
“I had to pour 5000 litres of beer down the drain yesterday, which was absolutely heartbreaking,” she says.
Despite her looming financial difficulties, Kerrie never considered charging for the hand sanitiser. “I’m just doing it to help people out. We’re not going to ask for $10 for 100ml when it’s for your mum and dad who are struggling. No, I’ll cop that on the chin.
“Everyone’s in survival mode. But I hope we’re not just looking after ourselves, we’re looking after our communities as well.”
Kerrie would like all of us to acknowledge that we’re anxious in the face of coronavirus. “Let’s just show a little bit of humanity,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a big act, but we need to be a little bit calmer and a little bit kinder. If we can all just be like, ‘OK, we’re all going through this’.”
Enforced social distancing has also made it difficult to stay committed to building caring neighbourhoods, she says. “You can’t hug your mates. So, let’s try and work on how, as a community, we can help each other out.”
Happy to help
Kerrie says she’s received many notes of thanks, but just feels happy she can help those in need, even indirectly. For instance, a couple of friends who run physiotherapy practices told her they wouldn’t have been able to stay in business and see patients without her hand sanitiser.
Kerrie believes it’s part of human nature to want to help. “Helping people feels bloody great,” she says. “I don’t want anything back for it, but you shouldn’t need anything back.
“It just makes me feel really good, you know. It’s what this is all about.”