What happens when you get an evacuated returned Peace Corps volunteer, a sports bar owner, and a grandmother together during a global pandemic? A COVID-19 action non-profit named 86 Foundation!
Laura Wilkinson (the grandmother) and her husband are residents of the Coronado Cays. Her son, Cameron Herron, was teaching English in Macedonia with the Peace Corps when the virus hit. Typically, Peace Corps volunteers would know their return home date in advance to plan their next steps. However, Cameron had only 20 minutes to pack and let the program know where he wanted his return destination to be. With much uncertainty in his next steps, he decided to return home to Coronado. Along with Laura and Cameron, Charlie Coplan joined the team. Charlie is a sports bar owner during a time where there are no sports, and heavy regulations on bars.
The concept of 86 Foundation began with a simple idea – “we believe everyone should be safe,” recalls Laura. 86 refers to the bar term “86;” i.e. if you are 86’d from a bar you aren’t allowed to return, or if the salmon is 86’d that means it is out. The group is currently focused on hand sanitizer which is one of the original items that was out everywhere.
Laura went to help the food banks and wanted to provide something useful. They had a dire need for hand sanitizer, which in stores is limited to a small quantity per customer, the typical supply chain begins overseas, and in some cases, prices have been marked up exorbitantly. Laura saw this as an opportunity to do better for California.
“I have a friend who is an attorney and he helped me through the process. We work with Groundswell Brewing Company who is making hand sanitizer. We use proceeds from customers to then purchase hand sanitizer and donate the hand sanitizer to the food banks.” 86 Foundation’s largest customer is a local YMCA. One of the biggest motivators is keeping the product California based. Laura warns, “if another pandemic comes, we need to be ready.” She adds that you can buy hand sanitizer elsewhere for cheaper, but the shipping fees tend to be high. Laura also shares, “you know that this hand sanitizer is safe. We are here and we are held accountable.”
When asked what has surprised her the most about starting the foundation, Laura laughs, “that we could do it!” She elaborates, “ideas are great but execution is what matters. There is so much gratitude and motivation. We saw a tremendous amount of profiteering (from other companies) and it made us nauseous. We want trust and transparency.” The company serves a couple other purposes too – economic development and job creation.
86 in Coronado
86 Foundation does not currently have any businesses they provide to in Coronado, but Laura is optimistic that will change, “I’d love it if seniors would reach out to us!” Neighboring cities have been creative with 86 Foundation, Mark West is giving 86 Foundation hand sanitizer away in his Imperial Beach city council reelection campaign.
Laura expresses her concerns for Coronado, “sadly, I think we attract a lot of tourists from areas where masks may not be mandatory. I want to support Orange Avenue as much as possible, but it takes leadership. You go to other places in San Diego like National City and everyone is wearing masks. It’s heartbreaking, we have a lot of seniors and retired military here.”
A Coronado business that stands out to Laura is Fiveloaves Twofish, “Early on they were making masks. They are wonderful people with heart. Let’s protect ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones. I still have a Red Riding Hood mask I got from them that I love.” She adds, “Buy local, you’re going to get a better deal. We are your neighbors, we run into you at Clayton’s and Spreckels Park.”
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