Many people are concerned with the spreading of germs. A common complaint among churchgoers is the cleanliness of the holy water, said Flushing resident John Hartel.
About eight years ago, Hartel began thinking of a way for people to wet their hands with holy water in a way more sanitary than dipping them into a bowl.
“It’s automatic,” he said, “just like a soap dispenser.”
Each dispenser holds 16 ounces of water, which is about 500 milliliters, and provides each person with one milliliter of water. One dispenser can serve 500 people.
“It’s affordable, it’s efficient,” he said. “There’s no down side. It’s going to be completely clean and germ-free.”
Hartel is a fireman of 15 years and works at the Glen Oaks firehouse, Engine 251. The idea to create the dispenser began from a conversation with one of his coworkers about church and germs. His coworker mentioned to him that he never dips his hands in holy water because he did not know where other people’s hands had been. To him, it just seemed unsanitary, Hartel said.
“A lot of people don’t really shake hands anymore for the sign of peace — they just wave,” Hartel said. “Everybody’s really concerned about germs.”
He said although he had the idea about eight years ago, he did not act on it because of family issues. He finally decided to do something when H1N1, commonly known as the swine flu, broke out in the United States. He got a patent in 2008.
He said he went through a lengthy process of designing prototypes. The dispenser was originally in the shape of a cross, but Hartel said it was too heavy and the shape made it too complicated for the electronics to work smoothly. Now the product is a hand-crafted stained wooden box with a cross and a plaque on the front.
A few weeks ago, Hartel met with Chiarellli’s Religious Goods, a distributor, to discuss the possibility of selling the product in stores. Hartel said he has not yet sold any dispensers, he has just been building them. But he has given them to several churches — he said the product has gotten great feedback.
He is also going to the Catholic Marketing Trade Show in Dallas next month to showcase his product.
His company’s name is JMH Castlerea, Inc., which is named after the town in Ireland Hartel’s grandmother left to come to the United States. He said the dispenser exists because of her courage to leave Ireland.
Hartel said the product was such a simple idea and that he is glad to be the first one to think of it.
To contact Hartel, submit inquiries or learn more about the product, visit automaticholywaterdispenser.vpweb.com.