Living the Dream: Sarah Vasega

During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies throughout North America are altering their operations to manufacture much-needed medical supplies, including masks and other personal protection equipment, as well as hand sanitizer. Aloha Green Apothecary converted its manufacturing laboratory to produce 240 gallons of hand sanitizer. The sanitizer was donated to patients, the local hospital and first responders on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Photo courtesy Aloha Green Apothecary. 

Sarah Vasega
Director of Retail Operations
Aloha Green Apothecary
Honolulu, HI

We try to be as prepared as possible. At our retail and production facilities we provide detailed occupant emergency plans as a resource for our staff. Natural disaster? We have a plan. Medical emergency or injury on site? Covered. Threat of violence or robbery? We are trained. Global pandemic? Oh, wait; nope.

Sadly, along with much of the world, we were not fully prepared for that one. For individuals and companies, tough times have a way of revealing what is most important. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, we moved to adapt, take care of our team and pitch in for our community.

As in other states, Hawaii issued a sweeping order to stay at home. Under this mandate, only essential businesses could continue to be open to the public. Thankfully, local authorities deemed that medical cannabis dispensaries were, in fact, essential. For a culture that had been in the shadows for generations, being identified as “essential” was a nice slice of validation to savor during such an unsure time.

But alas, there was no time to daydream about all the memes one could make about it! Our stores were BUSY! First, we had to educate the staff and do everything we could to protect their safety. We had to increase sanitization procedures and create social distancing practices that would work in high-traffic dispensaries. Almost every piece of the daily routine was altered so we could keep providing cannabis to those who need it. And at a time when nearly 25% of our state’s population filed for unemployment, company leadership chose to give our staff a temporary pay increase to assist them and their families during the pandemic.

We take great pride in giving back to our community in meaningful ways on a regular basis. There was no exception during this time of crisis. We moved our charitable donation schedule around and began collecting donations at our locations for Hawaii Meals on Wheels. Donations from patients are always matched dollar-for-dollar by the company, and those funds will directly help the more vulnerable population of kupuna, or elders, stay safely at home while providing them with hot meals.

Our manufacturing laboratory was also able to help our community in a big way. Aloha Green Apothecary produced approximately 240 gallons of hand sanitizer in the first few weeks, all of which was donated. Small bottles were given to patients to help protect them while coming and going from our locations. Additionally, larger 1-gallon jugs and 5-gallon buckets were donated to Queen’s Hospital, Honolulu Police, Fire Department, EMS and Ocean Safety divisions around the island.

Dealing with such an unprecedented situation, there was definitely fear for some and stress for most. Uncertainty has a way of forcing people and organizations to show their true character. Ultimately, we rose to the occasion and did what we had to do to operate safely, take care of our team and perpetuate aloha in our community.

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