Alumni Pandemic Response - Health Safety

It’s not what they planned to do, but when the need arose, there was no doubt it was exactly what members of the Chaminade Julienne community wanted to do.

Murphy LaSelle, a 1998 Chaminade Julienne graduate, and his brothers, Mike and Tim, own and operate the Belle of Dayton and distilling spirits is the usual day-to-day business. But a worldwide pandemic is anything but usual and LaSelle realized a new temporary business plan was in order. Hand sanitizer became the product of choice for Belle of Dayton.

“We were not set up to make hand sanitizer but we had all the knowledge,” LaSelle said. “As soon as we realized people weren’t able to get what they needed, we looked into it.”

The FDA loosened guidelines for production of hand sanitizer on a Friday and LaSelle reached out to his brothers two days later to discuss logistics. The CJ graduate purchased the necessary supplies that night.

For a month, Belle of Dayton produced hand sanitizer not to boost sales but to help the community. From City of Dayton first responders to RTA bus drivers, LaSelle and his brothers supplied hand sanitizer free of charge.

“It was never our intention to make money from this, we just wanted to help people,” he said. “We really wanted to get it into the hands of the people who needed it most.”

From Riverside to Centerville and many points in between, Belle of Dayton made sure that first responders, healthcare workers and other essential personnel had what they needed at their fingertips – literally.

Not surprisingly, LaSelle isn’t the only member of the CJ community whose workplace changed gears as a result of the pandemic – after all, Eagles are individuals of compassion, integrity and service.

CAT Resources invented and is the exclusive manufacturer of the Combat Application Tourniquet, standard issue for the United States military. But there was another need that company leadership saw as COVID-19 spread across the country.

“Our owner thought, with the equipment and resources we have, we could start making face masks,” said CAT Resources general manager Mike Casella, a 2000 graduate. “We came up with designs and prototypes within 24 hours.”

The company quickly manufactured more than 40,000 masks in their South Carolina facility alone.

“One of the most rewarding things is that we were able to keep everyone employed and we didn’t have to shut down at all,” Casella said. “And people are still looking for masks, so it’s nice and very rewarding to be able to provide something they need.”

John Wittmann, of Wittmann Custom Tailoring, realized early on that the pandemic would seriously impact his Kettering business.

“My clients were all scrambling to save their own businesses and our product was not first priority, so I was looking at no work, no income, and no employees,” he said. “Worse, I was contributing nothing to help the virus challenge, and I refused to stay home and repair windows.”

Wittmann heard that Goodwill needed help making masks for Kettering Medical Center so he picked up a kit for 50 and made them the first day. For 11 days, he and his wife Jane, an ’83 graduate, spent countless hours cutting and making masks.

“I have lost count – don’t want to know – how many we have made since then,” he said, smiling. “Grandma raided her sewing room, friends ordered fabric online from JoAnn’s. I arrived one day to fabric in front of our door, I have no idea who donated it.”

When they had fulfilled the hospital’s needs they started selling masks to the public.

“It has not provided income of consequence to the business, but it has allowed us to keep some staff,” the father of CJ graduates Julie '10, Tom '12 and Dan '15 said. “Someday, when we cut the last mask, I am going to make it myself, frame it and hang it on the wall.”


Published May 27, 2020