Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Olivia Newton, 11, pours thickening agent into a vat of water as her mother Danette uses a mixture to create a gel while creating a small batch of 65% alcohol hand sanitizer in Lass and Lions' manufacturing facility on Thursday. Lass and Lions vodka distillers normally uses the location to infuse their product with flavors, but has recently began to work on creating 65% alcohol hand sanitizer to help Hamilton County residents in response to the national outbreak of coronavirus creating a shortage in the market.

Stuck at home and need a diversion? We have some projects for you. Not binge entertainment — projects.


Make your concerns known

Write or call your senators and tell them what you think, and not just about coronavirus. Instead, tell them that we need and want a Federal Election Commission that's committed to enforcing the law. This week marks 200 days since the Federal Election Commission has effectively been shut down because the president has not filled vacancies.

This means the FEC is still unable to punish those who violate the law, craft new rules, issue legal guidance to candidates or political groups, or hold public meetings. And, as our country is in the middle of the presidential primary season, shouldn't we have the nation's election watchdog on duty?

Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a confirmation hearing for President Trump's FEC nominee, Trey Trainor. And, although this would mean the agency would at long last have enough commissioners to conduct business, Trainor is the wrong person for the job. His previous record and his responses at his confirmation hearing suggest that he would not uphold the rule of law and would actually end up making things worse, according to Issue One, a cross-partisan political reform group in Washington that includes former Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, former Tennessee Sen. Jim Sasser, former Rep. and Sen. and Secretary of Labor Bill Brock and others. Wamp is a co-chairman on the group.

While you're home this weekend, Issue One ( is a great place to start catching up on the needs left unattended in the policy circles of our government. The group's stated purpose is to "unite Republicans, Democrats, and independents in the movement to fix our broken political system."


Make yourself count

Fill out your 2020 Census questionnaire and mail it back.

It might not cure coronavirus, but it can help shape your future and the future of your community.

Counting everyone helps communities receive funding needed for health care, education, emergency services, and the things we all feel strongly about.

The United States conducts a census every 10 years, and this is the year. Once we've all filled out the form, government officials, lawmakers, business owners and many others will use the 2020 Census data for the next 10 years to make critical decisions in and for our communities — everything from where to locate a store to whose congressional district we vote in.

In most years, the U.S. Census Bureau sent someone up and down streets to visit homes and get the census information, but this year coronavirus is making things a bit different. The visits will be suspended for a time — until April 1 at the least.

Do your part. Go ahead and fill out the form and put in your mailbox.


Take time for hope and help

Finally, make it a point to find and read online the many stories of good deeds and volunteerism and general points of light, locally and globally, that surfaced last week as the coronavirus story unfolded.

* Altruism sparked by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's office last week led to a virtual phone bank for people to begin checking in on elderly residents. Anyone can log on to the phone bank and begin calling elderly residents, but since the effort is virtual, it is an opportunity for people who are self-isolating to help their neighbors with a friendly voice but without putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus, said Lakweshia Ewing, a local Church of God in Christ evangelist and member of We Over Me.

* A local vodka distillery is mixing up hand sanitizer to give away to those in need. Danette Newton, founder and CEO of Lass and Lions Vodka, said: "To make vodka we cut it to 40% with pure spring water. To make hand sanitizer, we'll cut it to 65% and thicken it up." Lass and Lions is asking local businesses to offer up more bottles, build their supply of thickeners, and expand the reach of this volunteer effort. Newton says they're setting up distribution points, advertising the sanitizer on Facebook and giving it away.

* Two tech-savvy supporters of the local food and beverage scene, Don Sayers and Daniel Ryan, built an app — — that lets you tip hard-pressed servers now out of work from the comfort of your quarantine. Suddenly jobless servers and bartenders can sign up to get tips from folks who want to support their neighbors in the hard months ahead. What began as a local project has morphed into a multi-city effort with more than 5,000 servers, 4,000 tip-button clicks and 250,000 page views. And guess what else: As Sayers notes, even if it can't help everyone pay their bills, it offers the servers and the rest of us a welcome source of human connection.

* In cities throughout Europe, people are taking a minute or two each night to come together — from their windows in song — to show their gratitude to the doctors, nurses and other health care workers putting themselves at risk on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds, forced by the virus to stay home, stand at open windows or on balconies in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Athens and Amsterdam, at prearranged times to sing, cheer and applaud — even though they know their intended audience is too busy to listen. Word of the times and songs (in Spain it was a tweaked version of "I Will Survive,)" is spread mostly through the WhatsApp messaging service.

Yep. With love like this, we will survive.