A BARRY woman and Cowbridge man have been honoured with British Empire Medals.
Rhys Mallows, managing director of Mallows Bottling – a bottling firm who repurposed the business to produce more than one million bottles of hand sanitiser during the coronavirus pandemic – has been honoured by the Queen with a British Empire Medal (BEM).
Ethanol – the alcohol used to make beverages and sanitiser – was in short supply across Europe at the time, with countries like France, Spain and Italy closing borders and retaining it for their domestic needs.
The 25-year-old said: “We saw the need in our direct community, in the local NHS trusts, in the old people’s homes, in schools.
“My wife is a teacher, so I was hearing about how difficult it was for them on a daily basis.”
Rhys Mallows and his fellow company director, his father Andrew Mallows, 56, struck a deal with a Scottish distiller for supply of a spirit that their family business then used in a recipe for the antibacterial gel at a time it was “incredibly difficult to get hold of”.
Their site has since produced 1.3 million bottles of 100ml hand sanitiser and 124,000 litres of the gel in larger containers.
Rhys Mallows said: “We knew that people in the community were going to have touchpoints with one another, sanitising hands was a really quick way to stop that transmission.
“We’re not scientists, but we really felt that if we can give people little bullets to protect themselves, then it’d make a big difference.
“We’ve done some calculations, and we think we’ve sanitised 81 million hands.
“We tried as hard as possible to get those into the NHS trusts, into old people’s homes, trying to get into that supply chain (so) that we could make the strongest benefit as possible.”
Mr Mallows said the repurposing of the site, which is normally used to bottle premium spirits into glass containers, was a ‘big risk’ as doing so could have damaged the machinery.
He said the effort would have been ‘impossible’ without the site’s 29 employees, who he said ‘turned up day in, day out when it was probably a scary time’.
He added: “Everyone pulled together because they believed in the causes that we were working for.”
Mr Mallows said the experience has given confidence that the business can expand further, and it is looking to grow to 60 employees and help stimulate the local economy.
He said: “We’re looking forward to a brightest future as we’ve ever had. The pandemic has allowed us to go into new markets that we’ve never gone into. The Zoom culture allows us to meet buyers and international buyers that we never had access to before.
“Hopefully we’ll be launching into Poland, France, Australia and into America and we’ll actually over the next year become more of an export business that a domestic business.”
58-year-old Linda Ruston, from Barry has also been awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to social care.
Ms Ruston is manager of New Horizons day centre for adults living with physical disabilities. Although many people living with disabilities often face physical, social, and financial barriers she is passionate about ‘levelling the playing field’ to give equality of opportunity to all.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic Ms Ruston realised the social restrictions could put those with disabilities at risk of isolation and loneliness – working with the New Horizons team they found safe alternative opportunities for people to engage with.
Ms Ruston repurposed her team to prepare and deliver hot meals to people that had no other means of having a hot meal during the day and has worked tirelessly to ensure daily contact with people that would otherwise have had no contact with another person for weeks on end.
The team supported 28 people through activity programmes – including online games and quizzes, music events and opportunities to catch up with friends, plus safe face to face activities for people who do not link online.
Ms Ruston and her team also supported the rollout of PPE for teams of social workers and occupational therapists who have needed to undertake emergency visits to people, helping occupational therapist teams visit people in need at the time of crisis.