The Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge has spent the month of March collecting hygiene products at stores in Boone and Blowing Rock to benefit regional nonprofits.
From March 6-24, the Women’s Fund is collecting products like soap, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste to donate to Reaching Avery Ministries, Ashe County Sharing Center, OASIS and Hospitality House.
Hospitality House works to combat homelessness, hunger and poverty by offering permanent and transitional housing, job skills training, and a food pantry and community kitchen.
OASIS, Opposing Abuse with Service, Information and Shelter, provides resources, crisis counseling and temporary housing to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
OASIS director of community programs Kelsi Butler said the hygiene drive is valuable to the organization because the community members OASIS works with are often in need of those smaller, personal items like hygiene supplies.
Butler said some women and families have had to leave their homes quickly or unexpectedly to pursue safety, and packing hygiene items is often not survivors’ first priority.
“They provide items that we wouldn’t generally think about going without,” Butler said. “Just items that when we are leaving an abusive household, we wouldn’t think to grab. So through this partnership we are able to provide survivors with some of the things we take for granted and allow them to be confident when establishing their own independent housing. “
Reaching Avery Ministries has been providing food, clothing and other emergency resources to Avery County for 35 years.
Reaching Avery Ministries director Janet Millsaps said that this is the first year RAM has been a part of the hygiene drive. The homeless population is not very visible because many poor folks in the area get by floating from house to house, Millsaps said, but drives like this do a lot for people in need.
The hygiene drive is especially important because it provides people with products that we all need but do not often think about donating.
“We are very grateful for those kind of items because they cannot be purchased with food stamps, so that’s something people struggle to have access to,” Millsaps said.
Similarly, Ashe County Sharing Center has offered a food pantry, health resources and educational nutrition programs to the Ashe County area for 35 years, and they are excited to be able to offer hygiene products to those who visit their pantry.
“These hygiene kits are jam packed with essential items,” director Michael Sexton said in an email. “We are delighted to make sure they get in the neediest hands of women and their families in the rural communities of Ashe County.”
The Women’s Fund has drop-off locations at Something Else Gifts in Boone and Tanger Outlets and Footsloggers in Blowing Rock.
Tracy Schindler, owner of Something Else Gifts, moved to Boone from Texas a year and a half ago, and has run Something Else, which refurbishes, creates and sells home decor and other products, for about nine months.
“When I was back in Houston, I was always involved in social service of some kind,” Schindler said. “Coming up here and being a new person in Boone, I finally got to know the Women’s Fund and liked their organization. I hope to get more and more involved with them. I think that they’re a great organization and they give back to the community.”
Schindler said opportunities for service like this one are important because everyone needs a helping hand at one point or another.
“There’s never one group of people in need,” Schindler said. “Every person, at some point in their lives, has to have help one way or another. I just think you need a variety of different kinds of services to help people in their time of need. We’ve all been there, so we need to give back.”
Story by: Ashley Goodman, A&E Editor; Savannah Nguyen, A&E Reporter
Photo by: Mickey Hutchings, Staff Photographer
Feature Photo Caption: The donation box for the Hygiene Supply Drive, organized by the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge, at Something Else in downtown Boone.