Monday, March 22, 2010

Clean 'Em Up!

Even before the economy started tanking, my kids were aware of the fact that not everyone in the world is financially content and fortunate enough to have a warm home with fresh fruit in the refrigerator and cookies in the pantry. More specifically, they know that there are certain intersections in the Minneapolis area that seem to be occupied 24-hours-a-day by someone holding a poorly made cardboard sign that often includes words like "homeless, out of work, needs money, hungry" and "broke."

Nowadays, it seems that more and more corners are being occupied and some of these intersections are located in places where it's not exactly convenient to throw cash out the window. Besides, if I said goodbye to $10 every time I saw a cardboard sign, pretty soon I'd need a cardboard sign of my own.

When Zach was little, he suggested that since these people seemed so hungry maybe we should give them a turkey sandwich and a bag of chips instead of cash. That way they would have something to eat without having to take a trip to the grocery store. I tried to explain to him that these guys just preferred the cash because they might not want a turkey sandwich for lunch. He said oh yeah, they might want ham.

Since everyone in our family uses a Sonicare toothbrush, all of the toothbrushes that are sent home from the dentist or school end up in a designated guest toothbrush drawer (please, don't laugh at me). When Zoe brought one home from school a couple days ago, I noticed that we had accumulated way more toothbrushes in this drawer than we would ever have guests, but it seemed pretty wasteful to just throw them away. That's when I got a brilliant idea: I should put together a few personal hygiene bags, keep them in the car and give them to the homeless! The kit would include a toothbrush, a travel size tube of toothpaste, a small bar of soap, and maybe a comb. After all, I always feel better after I brush my teeth, everyone loves a new toothbrush and I'll bet these guys would really appreciate a bar of soap.

I was pretty excited about my creative idea and thought that everyone else in my family would be too. When I mentioned it to them, though, they didn't think it was a very good idea. In fact, they thought it was pretty stupid and I think the boys were kind of afraid of what would happen if we were to pull up to a stoplight, open the window, and watch as a penniless guy opened up a bag and instead of finding cash discovered a bar of Ivory and a tube of Crest. I think their actual words were: "Holy crap is that ever dumb. Our car will be pelted with toothbrushes."

Suddenly those turkey sandwiches don't sound like that bad of an idea, especially if I start wrapping those sandwiches in $5 bills. And I know that Goodwill won't accept fun things like a Sit & Spin, but does anyone know if they will accept new toothbrushes, still in their original packaging?


Shaun said...

Here is an organization that will take your unused, packaged toothbrushes. I just donated a bunch!

Jan Fransen said...

You could probably donate the toothbrushes and other hygiene items to any of the homeless shelters in town. If you think about it, to use soap or toothpaste they pretty much have to be at a shelter. (We do have the occasional homeless person taking a sponge bath at the library, but doing that increases the likelihood that they'll get "trespassed" from a nice temperature controlled building that has free computer access.)

If you don't want to give money, here's an interesting idea we got from a formerly homeless man who spoke to our church youth group. He suggested socks in a plastic bag. According to him, homeless adults in Minneapolis struggle with keeping their feet warm and dry more than anything else. They're standing and walking all day in all weather. He told us that food in the Twin Cities isn't really a problem, at least for adults who've been on the street for any period of time. There are lots of places to get it.

Another tidbit from the speaker: The easiest but worst things to hand out are granola bars and apples. Many don't have healthy enough teeth to eat them.

The person we heard was a wealth of information. We all know that others in our midst live very different lives, but it's difficult to absorb what that really means on a day-to-day basis.

The Mean Mom said...

Thanks for the info! I've donated boxes of soap, lotion, shampoo and make-up to women's shelters but never know what to give (besides cash) to the homeless standing by my car. Now I need to go get a giant pack of socks at Costco.

Anonymous said...

The Girl Scouts usually do an annual personal items drive. They drop bags one week and pick them up the next. In St. Louis, it is in April. I can't speak for Minney. They definitely take toothbrushes and travel soaps, etc.