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FDA Tried To Punish Distilleries for Helping During the Pandemic

One good turn deserves a hefty slap on the wrist. That seems to be the sentiment at the FDA. In the early days of the pandemic, distilleries started producing hand sanitizer to meet a hugely increased demand. But the FDA tried to punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic.

When the mainstream news told people to panic about the coronavirus, they happily obliged. PPE and hand sanitizer were soon sold out everywhere. But as we knew, people still wanted to help others voluntarily. Distilleries decided that since they produce alcohol for drinking, switching to alcohol for sanitizing would be an easy way to help their communities.

Many distilleries, especially community-minded local craft distilleries, started producing hand sanitizer. Aaron Bergh, president and distiller at Calwise Spirits in Paso Robles, California, was one example. “Some of my hand sanitizer was donated,” he said in a statement to Reason.com. “The rest was sold at a fraction of the market price.”

FDA Tried To Punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic
(Calwise Spirits)

This served a dual role of helping the community by providing sanitizer and jobs—jobs which were nearly lost due to the government’s lockdowns. Bergh said “My goal was to get as much [sanitizer] out as I could, at as low of a price as I could, while being able to bring my furloughed employees back to work. The hand sanitizer business saved me from bankruptcy—but I didn’t make an enormous profit.”

But a nasty surprise awaited the generous entrepreneurs: because they made hand sanitizer, the CARES act classifies them as “over-the-counter drug monograph facilities.” This means that FDA is punishing distilleries for helping during the pandemic with a $14,060 fine. Many of these distilleries are small businesses—already struggling financially due to government regulations and lockdowns.

FDA Tried To Punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic
Robby Verheyen of 4 Hands Brewing Company loads gallon jugs of hand sanitizer into a van for delivery in St. Louis on Friday, March 27, 2020. (BILL GREENBLATT/UPI/Newscom)

“We want to push back on this,” said Becky Harris, president of the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and of Catoctin Creek Distilling in Purcellville, Virginia. The distilleries only produced hand sanitizer for a short time, in a public-spirited response to a crisis. “If you were making sanitizer for your community at a limited capacity, this should not be something you have to deal with,” says Harris. “It will be a slap in the face to make it through all of this and then get hit with this bill.”

Fortunately, thanks to a huge public outcry, the Department of Health and Human Services stepped in to cancel the fines on these do-gooder distilleries. But the punishment for helping during a pandemic, simply to gather more money for the government, should never have been considered. It’s ironic that the CARES Act—the government’s alleged effort to help people during the COVID pandemic—would have hurt the very people who voluntarily stepped up to help, as when the FDA tried to punish distilleries for helping during the pandemic. But that’s the nature of government intervention—someone is always hurt. And it strengthens our case that voluntary charity is more effective than government welfare—and that voluntaryism is the only moral way to organize a society.

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Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

One of the only good things about the tyrannical reaction to the pandemic has been the outpouring of support for people the government has hurt. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs due to state restrictions and lockdowns. But people are stepping up to help where the government inevitably hurts. For example, one chef is offering free meals to jobless individuals at his restaurants.

Chef Andrew Gruel (his food is better than his name) is a judge on the Food Network and the co-host of the SoCal Restaurant Show. He also owns Slapfish Seafood—a restaurant chain with 27 locations in the US—and the Big Parm pizzeria. On 3 December, Chef Gruel took to Twitter to remind everyone that people who had lost their jobs could get a free meal at his restaurants.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Hundreds of commenters raved about not only the Chef’s food, but about his kindness and generosity, and his willingness to assist those whom the state had harmed. Some people even offered to pay for the meals of jobless folks who take Chef Gruel up on his offer.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Predictably, not everyone was happy about people helping other people. The propaganda put out by the government and mainstream media has warped many people’s sense of right and wrong, even to the point where voluntarily helping people in distress is denounced as “selfishness.”

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless
Fortunately, most negative comments were few and far between.

Another common criticism of charity such as Chef Gruel’s is that greedy people will take advantage of his generosity, nobody will pay for meals, and he’ll lose money and go out of business. On the contrary, over the weekend the restaurants pulled in double the usual business as people flocked in to support Chef Gruel. And that money, Chef Gruel said, would be used to give his employees a holiday bonus.

The general condition of humanity is that people feel empathy for each other and want to help. This is why voluntary charity works—as the example of Chef Gruel and many more like him demonstrate.

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September-October 2020 Organizational Update

Voluntaryism in Action continues to grow! This autumn saw us adding more team members to our ranks: Steve Williams–our new multimedia expert, and Amanda Strong—our new administrative assistant.  Steve will be helping us produce more educational and informational content to reach more people with the message of voluntaryism, and Amanda will help our overall efficiency.

Our summertime campaigns were big successes! Below is a brief summary of them and some other things we’re currently working on.

  • With the over $5,000 raised from our homeschooling and distance-learning education campaign, we directly supplied 69 students in the United States to help them get the most out of their education in difficult circumstances.
  • We also sent cryptocurrency to Kids Compassion Charity in Freetown, Sierra Leone to pay for school supplies for rural needy children.
  • Our essay contest for a higher education grant is set to close on October 31 with the winner to be announced in the coming weeks.
  • We raised over $10,000 for our “Free our Children” campaign to fight child sex trafficking which we granted to organizations who are specially equipped and trained to rescue victims and provide necessary aftercare: Operation Underground Railroad and The Demand Project.
  • An important milestone we hit this fall was being awarded our first grant! The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) granted VIA $4,500 to directly assist homeschooling families with educational expenses.  We will be rolling out this program in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
  • VIA just launched our second annual holiday food drive, and we’ve already surpassed our goal from last year! We will be using these funds to help feed needy families and supply food banks during their busiest season. 
  • VIA’s podcast, “A Voluntary View,” is now available on multiple platforms, including Spotify, RadioPublic, and Google Podcasts.

Our donors are what make all of these projects possible, and we can’t thank you enough for your support!  Great things are in our future, and we’re excited for you to be a part of this with us. 

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Toronto Carpenter is Defying the City to Help the Homeless

Khaleel Seivwright is building insulated, mobile shelters for homeless people this winter. (CBC)

Winter in Canada is no joke. With average temperatures below freezing, Toronto is no exception. Shelter is essential to prevent Canadians from freezing to death. Yet the economic consequences of the government’s reaction to COVID-19 have left an increasing number of Canadians on the streets as winter looms closer. But one Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless.

Khaleel Seivwright, a 28-year-old carpenter, noticed the increasing numbers of homeless people in Toronto. Determined to do something about it, he started constructing small shelters and giving them away for free. With wooden walls, fiberglass insulation, a door, and a window, the shelters are nothing fancy. But they will keep people warm and could be the difference between life and death for some Canadians this winter—even though the shelters are technically illegal.

Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless
Ritchie is living in one of the completed shelters near Lake Ontario. Seivwright says Ritchie was living in a tent before he delivered the shelter. (Khaleel Seivwright)

“It just seemed like something I could do that would be useful because there’s so many people staying in tents,” said Seivwright. “I’ve never seen so many people staying outside in parks, and this is something I could do to make sure people staying outside in the winter could survive.”

Predictably, the government officials who get paid with taxpayer money when there are homeless people are not thrilled about Seivwright’s efforts. Gord Tanner, director of homelessness initiatives and prevention at the Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, admitted that “the system is very busy and very full.” With winter still on the way and the Canadian government’s COVID economic restrictions still crushing businesses, homelessness will likely continue to rise.

Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless
A Toronto homeless encampment is pictured in late May. Homelessness advocates say they expect to see more people living outdoors this winter due to the economic downturn caused by the government's COVID-19 restrictions. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Despite this, in an interview with CBC Tanner refused to say if the city would take a more lenient approach to mobile shelters or other encampments this winter, though he noted that mobile shelters can pose “significant” risks to occupants, including as potential fire hazards. Reporters from CBC apparently did not ask Tanner if he thought homeless people would prefer the certainty of death from exposure to the risk of death by fire.

In any case, Seivwright says that the threat of law enforcement won’t deter him from helping people in need. “This is what I know how to do, this is what seems to be viable, so I’m going to continue to do this.” Each shelter costs about $1,000 in new material and takes Seivwright eight hours to construct. Seivwright is paying for the project largely through a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign—funded with voluntary donations.

Advocates for the homeless are urging the City of Toronto to dramatically increase the capacity of its shelter system, which would require forcibly taking money from taxpayers—and a large chunk of that would end up in the pockets of administrators. But as this Toronto carpenter is defying the city to help the homeless, his  fundraising campaign exceeded the $20K goal by more than 400% in less than a month. Last week, Seivwright increased the goal to $200K—and as of this writing, it’s more than halfway complete. That means potentially lifesaving shelters for hundreds of Canadians, from an outpouring of kindness and compassion. That’s the power of voluntaryism in action.

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July 2020 Organizational Update

We went into the second half of the year with a bang with ongoing COVID-19 relief projects as well as more opportunity for personal outreach. Entering the new month, for the first time, VIA is managing dual active fundraisers. Here’s our progress from the past month:

●      Your donations to our relief project to assist small businesses affected by the riots helped: Emily’s Eatery, Midori’s Floating World Café, Coco & Family Beauty Supply, Lake Street Stop n’ Shop, and Top Cut Comics. Read more about it here: https://viaction.org/wire/updates/rebuilding-small-businesses

●      Launched the fundraiser for COVID Relief for Low Income Students, assisting families who are continuing education from home or distance learning. To support the cause, donate here: https://viaction.org/educate

●      In VIA Community, we began releasing homeschooling tips to assist families who are either seasoned homeschoolers or new and forced into it because of school closures. If you’re not yet a part of the VIA family, find our Facebook group: VIA Community

●      Assistant Director Justin Glassman and Content Creator Sam Wade assisted a local ‘Strengthen Your Community’ event, giving hygiene kits and snacks to the homeless in Macon, GA, funded by your donations to our fundraiser: Self-Sufficiency Resources for the Needy.

●      Launched nationwide volunteer program to send care packages to the homeless across America, again utilizing remaining funds from Self-Sufficiency Resources for the Homeless as well as accepting ongoing funds at viaction.org/ to continue to support the project. Donations can be made here: https://viaction.org/causes/community-development

●      In response to the spotlight on human trafficking, we commenced a second fundraiser, Free Our Children: Fight Child Sex Trafficking. If you’d like to support through VIA, donate here: https://viaction.org/freeourchildren

●      We jumpstarted our podcast A Voluntary View With VIA on YouTube and LBRY.tv

●      We are working with a volunteer grantwriting  consultant to start our grantwriting process.

●      We invested more capital in our IT department to become more efficient.

As we look to the future, our team hopes to continue to stand for our mission as we respond to government’s failure to act in crisis and certainty with a voluntary helping hand. To our continued donors and supporters, thank you for making this all possible.

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Anchorage Diner Defies COVID-19 Orders

Kriner’s Diner is a small, family-owned business. They’re a staple of Anchorage Alaska, where people can grab their delicious food any time of the day. But like most small businesses, they were hit hard by the initial wave of government-mandated COVID-19 closures. As Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz continues to impose ever more draconian measures on the populace, diner owner Andy Kriner has decided that he’s had enough. Now this Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders, both to continue serving food and to thumb their nose at the tyrannical government.


Kriner refused to bow to the newest order to shut down dine-in service, and made no effort to discriminate against customers not wearing masks. When word got out, customers flooded into Kriner’s—not only to enjoy their delicious food, but to support them against the government. Many people, seeing the dining room full, left a monetary donation rather than wait to eat. “The people have spoken!” announced a waitress, brandishing another donation. So many people started donating that the employees set up a special donation receptacle so they had more time to serve customers.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders
The "stop work" order, fastened to the front door of Kriner's Diner.

The Municipality of Anchorage, furious that people are thinking and acting for themselves, issued a stop work order to the diner on 4 Aug, threatening fines and imprisonment if the Kriner family and their employees returned to work without the government’s permission. Kriner’s cheerfully announced on their Facebook page that they would close early on 4 Aug to prepare for opening on the next day—which they did, to a packed house.

After attempting to call for comment and receiving a busy signal all day, I finally dropped by the diner to investigate the situation and their food (the burgers are great!). The employees had taken the phone off the hook, because there’s nobody available to answer it during the day. When businesses in Anchorage were allowed to reopen, some of Kiner’s employees realized they could make more money at home collecting the government’s new unemployment checks. “People just aren’t coming in to work,” Andy Kriner, the diner’s founder and owner, explained.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders

Currently, the diner is only open from 9AM to 3PM, and is not offering to-go orders. “I only have one cook now,” Kiner said. “He can’t cook dining room and carryout. I can’t do that to him.” This is just one more example of how the ostensibly well-intentioned actions of the government inevitably end up hurting the most vulnerable people.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders
Andy Kriner outside his diner. Image credit: Kriner's Diner

Despite the difficulties that Kriner’s faces, the people of Anchorage who are sick of the tyranny of their government have rallied around the small diner. Other businesses, like the Little Dipper Diner (also of Anchorage) have also refused to comply with government mandates and subsequent “stop work” orders. Hopefully, more people and businesses will begin to emulate Kriner’s Diner and the good people of Anchorage in taking back their rights from oppressive governments.


The best part is that people who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 are free to stay away from Kriner’s. The experience of Sweden shows that coercive government mandates like the Anchorage establishments are rebelling against are not necessary to “flatten the curve.” As this Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders, Kriner’s is standing up for people to do things voluntarily, without immoral coercion from the government. As we say here at VIA, good ideas don’t require force.

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Rebuilding Small Businesses

2020 has been one hell of a year for small business owners. Already hurting from COVID-19 restrictions and mandates, small businesses across the United States were again hit hard during the riots that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Thanks to our donors, Voluntaryism in Action (VIA) raised close to $30k to aid small business owners in their cleanup and rebuilding efforts. Funds were sent directly to Emily’s Eatery, Midori’s Floating World Cafe, Coco & Family Beauty Supply, and Lake Street Stop n’ Shop of Minneapolis, as well as Top Cut Comics in Illinois and Marza Jewelers in Atlanta, Georgia.

I personally spoke with Anna, the owner of Emily’s Eatery, and she was so immensely grateful for the financial assistance we were able to offer. Although many members of her community had been volunteering in the cleanup effort, she had been getting nowhere with insurance.


We hope all of our followers and donors know what an incredible impact they have when they share our causes and become donors. Not only are you helping lift your fellow man, you’re also helping spread the message of voluntaryism and the love of liberty across the world. When people see us living our values, they are more likely to listen to our philosophy and consider our ideas viable.

Thanks again to our donors for assisting us with this successful campaign to rebuild small businesses. We couldn’t do what we do without your support!

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May 2020 Organizational Update

In the month of May, the world continued to struggle with Covid-19, but with an end in sight to the restrictions, the nation turned to a mixture of outrage and solidarity as news broke of another injustice. Between the outrage and some of the violent responses to protests, chaos erupted in the midst of protest and devastated homes, businesses, and lives.

We responded with an ongoing charity to restore small businesses. Despite the outpouring of emotion during a difficult time for our country, we saw some positivity in a new partnership we are proud to assist and continuous involvement in the community. This is what we have to look back on in the past month:

● We partnered with Toni Lane Compassion Charity, a charity team based in Sierra Leone that utilizes cryptocurrency to maneuver around the bureaucratic restrictions of international funding and sending direct supplies. More here: https://viaction.org/causes/sierra-leone-aid

● We kickstarted our charity drive to assist in rebuilding small businesses that had devastating damages from the riots in major cities. Link to donate here: https://viaction.org/rebuild

● Assistant Director Justin Glassman and Content Creator Sam Wade hosted the first monthly live Q&A in VIA Community. They answered questions from the community regarding plans for VIA and how they came to join VIA.

● We continued to use the funds from the Covid-19 relief projects to assist more families struggling with the crisis.

● The T-Shirt Design Contest has been extended and is ongoing as we continue to receive more submissions.

● Shelter Point Distillery shared our article about their project to assist hospitals with the need for hand sanitizer. Article can be read here: https://viaction.org/wire/news/distilleries-are-producing-hand-sanitizer

● Steubens Ltd. pledged to donate 20% of merchandise profit to our active Facebook fundraiser. You can shop here: steubensltd.com

In the coming months we look forward to continuing to assist and partner with those across the globe in voluntaryism efforts and becoming more connected with our community, and to see more progress in June.

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Little Free Pantries Project in Toronto

It’s often during times of turmoil that we see the best that humanity has to offer, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. Businesses have been helping lower income families put food on the table, individuals are making masks for others, and volunteers are grocery shopping for those that are more at risk of catching the virus. This pandemic has devastated countless families financially, shuttered businesses, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus’ impact has been nothing short of devastating, but just like any other troubling time in history, you can always find the helpers.

With unemployment spreading rapidly because of the virus and how governments have responded, many are finding it difficult just to keep food on the table. Knowing this, some individuals and local businesses in Toronto, Canada, have started a “Little Free Pantries Project.” If you’ve ever heard of a “Little Free Library”—usually a small cupboard on a person’s lawn filled with books intended to be exchanged between willful individuals—then you can gather the general idea.

Neighbors are encouraged to leave a donation if they are well off, and those that are in need can take what they need when they need it. The Toronto Little Free Pantries Project has been building and stocking these pantries across the city. So far they have helped erect 13 pantries and are encouraging others to follow their lead.

It’s small acts of kindness—even a Little Free Pantries project—that make a significant impact on those in need. That box of mac & cheese might be insignificant to you, but it may mean the world to a single mom struggling to feed her kids right now. This is how we help our neighbors in a noncoercive, voluntary manner. With a little ingenuity, kindness, and charity, we can help those that are in need, especially those that fall through the proverbial government cracks.

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Distilleries Are Producing Hand Sanitizer

Dr. Neil Ramsay is an anesthesiologist who sits on a committee for Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). In March, they were facing a major dilemma: Dr. Ramsey and his colleagues were trying to figure out a solution to address the incredible rising need for hand sanitizer. A distributor on the committee was warning them of the impending scarcity, and concerns grew that the hospital would run out before the end of the month.

Dr. Ramsay began to ponder about a solution for his hospital. He had heard that many small businesses were making products they usually didn’t sell during the COVID-19 pandemic to aid healthcare workers and the public. He decided to reach out to his friend Chris Nelson, who was an investor in Shelter Point Spirits. Nelson and his wife generously donated $25,000 immediately to a local distillery to kickstart the process of making hand sanitizer.

Distilleries are producing hand sanitizer
Chris Nelson, right, the owner of Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino and an investor in the Shelter Point Distillery on Vancouver Island, delivers hand sanitizer to VGH anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ramsay. Image credit: Arlen Redekop / PNG

Within 48 hours of speaking with Chris Nelson, the Campbell River Distillery delivered the hand sanitizer to VGH. Dr. Ramsay confirms that it distinguishes itself from other hand sanitizers with its strong boozy scent: “When it first arrived, I saw people sniffing their hands and laughing. It smells like whiskey!” Donations of hand sanitizer continued to make their way to the Salvation Army on the Eastside and another hospital, Victoria General.

Many British Columbia based businesses are changing their products and services to help navigate the current pandemic, and Dr. Ramsay doesn’t plan to stop utilizing them. In addition to distilleries producing hand sanitizer, Dr. Ramsay has found a company that is producing nearly 90,000 isolation gowns. This company is Mustang Survival in Burnaby and their typical specialty is marine survival gear. Dr. Ramsay reached out to them about developing a particular water-resistant, breathable hood for doctors to wear while intubating patients.

distilleries are producing hand sanitizer
VGH anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ramsay wearing the prototype of a hood designed by Burnaby-based Mustang Survival to keep spittle from COVID patients off doctors necks and faces. Image credit Arlen Redekop / PNG

This is an especially important piece of equipment, as intubating patients can cause workers to be covered in spittle. They created a prototype for Dr. Ramsay, and he soon hopes 100s of the hoods will be handed out to his hospital and others that are expressing interest for the extra protection. “…just gives us extra confidence,” Ramsay said gratefully, “I just want to thank people for all the help.”


Around the world, it’s no different. Thousands of distilleries are producing hand sanitizer in the United States for businesses and hospitals. Multiple private services are coming together to produce PPE for healthcare workers—even 3-D printing the PPE. The desire to help our medical personnel is so widespread that nearly every Etsy account owned by someone who can sew features a wide selection of cloth masks. It goes to show that even in such harsh and uncertain times, lots of individuals come together voluntarily to offer their services and knowledge, allowing us to move forward.

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