Brother's legacy inspires Ottawa man to give away free hand sanitizer

Jordan Harding has created a delivery and distribution system to get free hand sanitizer to vulnerable people who need it most. (Photo: @JordanHarding / Twitter)

Jordan Harding says he never imagined 2020 would be like this.

Harding has been giving out small bottles of hand sanitizer for free to vulnerable residents and he says the response has been incredible.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's The Goods with Dahlia Kurtz, Harding said the idea came to him when he noticed an elderly woman in line at the checkout was visibly panicked because she couldn't find any sanitizer.

"It instantly told me that there is going to be a really high need for this product that nobody could find," he said. "I had a light bulb moment, realizing that a friend owned a sanitation company. I reached out to him and found out I was able to get some and we went to Dollar Tree and got a hundred bottles, put all the hand sanitizer in the bottles, and then I went to Reddit Ottawa and made a post offering to give it away for free."

From that post, Harding says it grew into something he "can't even put into words."

The chief technology officer at a local tech company has since set up a website and a supply chain of his own to get these bottles to the people who need them.

"It's definitely not something I would be doing in 2020, not gonna lie," he said. "I took faith in the fact that this is something that people need and hundreds of people have come together and we've all put our heads together. It's working like clockwork."

Harding says the website is where people can apply to get sanitizer, or even donate sanitizer, bottles, or cash of their own to help.

The bottles of hand sanitizer are meant for "high need" individuals, such as the immunocompromised, the elderly, and cancer patients, but also frontline workers like care workers, grocery clerks, taxi, rideshare and delivery drivers, and retail staff.

"Everything is just working out magically and we're just extremely grateful to be able to do this for Ottawa," he said.

Harding says his late brother, Paul, was a big inspiration.

Paul died about a year ago, at 38 years of age. Harding says a conversation the two shared in those final days has stuck with him ever since.

"He said, 'All I really wanted to do was leave a positive impact on the world,'" Harding said. "I told him he'd absolutely done that and he was like, 'No, I just really wish I could have done more.' That moment has been with me ever since. Part of being able to do this for Ottawa has been a big part of that sticking with me. I feel like he'd have a pretty big smile on his face right now."

That feeling of helping others is something Harding says is an amazing thing.

"When you do something for someone, and they need it, and you watch their reaction and you feel it, it just stays with you," he said. "That feeling just helps humanity. Financial gain is one thing, money comes and goes, but the feelings that stick with you, they stay with you forever. I one hundred per cent recommend doing anything people can to help their neighbour because we need that now, more than ever."

Harding says demand has increased as more people have learned of his service, but so has the number of people willing to help.

"In the last 24 hours, we got several hundred more orders. We're seeing about one new order every minute, but we've tripled our team of drivers, I've got neighbours in my building that have offered to help with labelling. There are people waiting outside my building right now with glass bottles to donate," he said.

Harding says he and his team will keep doing this as long as it's necessary.

"Everybody is coming together in so many different ways and it's actually working," he said. "For this project to go from nothing three weeks ago to a full-blown delivery and distribution system that's actually able to keep up is something we're all super proud of. I have the Ottawa community to thank for all of it. It's just been unbelievable."

You can find out how to help, or how to get some hand sanitizer, at handsan.ca

He saw a senior meltdown when she couldn't find hand sanitizer, so @JordanHarding decided to do something about it.

Now, he distributes hand sanitizer for FREE to high-need individuals in Ottawa.

He tells me he receives "one order every minute" at https://t.co/7g05mF6bUc.

— dahlia kurtz (@DahliaKurtz) April 11, 2020         View this post on Instagram                  

The final product! #handsanottawa @handsan.ca

A post shared by Jordan Harding (@jordandharding) on Apr 8, 2020 at 8:02pm PDT