Glencoe teen group collects toiletry items for homeless
Josh Perlmutter, Casey Karnes, Henry Dyke, Sam Okrent and John Dyke, pictured here last summer, have all worked to collect toiletries for people in need . | Contributed photo
In hotels and health clubs we pick them up, convinced that they’re ours for the taking. Beware, however: they mysteriously accumulate over time, crowding bathroom cabinets, dresser drawers and cosmetic totes.
Travel-sized shampoos, lotions, and tiny bars of soap, that is.
And the irony is that we’re probably among the least likely to need them.
If you’re among these guilty gatherers, a Glencoe teen group is offering you an opportunity to clear your conscience (and inventory) by donating them to Chicago’s homeless population. Known as “Chicago Community Connections,” the group has posted specially marked donation bins at Grand Food Center in Winnetka and Glencoe. The collection drive goes through this Sunday, July 15.
Sponsored by the Glencoe Union Church, the teen group has made providing comfort to Chicago’s homeless its mission. For the third year-in-a-row, the group hopes to gather enough toiletry items to assemble 1,000, Ziploc-sealed hygiene kits. The kits will then be distributed by Night Ministry, a social service provider that travels through in Chicago’s poor neighborhoods. Based in the Ravenswood community for 35 years, the charity has served an estimated 80,000 homeless.
Six days a week, after sunset, the Night Ministry RV transverses the Chicago neighborhoods of Uptown, Roseland, South Shore, Humboldt Park, Pilsner and Wicker Park. The bus pulls over at selected stops, and provides HIV testing and contacts to social services.
The toiletry drive idea was conceived by Glencoe teen Henry Dyke in 2010, a Glencoe Union Church parishioner. But with Dyke attending a Virginia boarding school, the responsibility for the collection drive—and the group’s future—falls squarely on the shoulders of Sam Okrent. The Glencoe teen, who was part of last year’s collection drive, is now leads the group.
While admitting that few could ever match Dyke’s passion and flair for helping the homeless, Okrent is confident that he and his group can continue the group’s mission.
“Every year, we keep looking for a bigger project,” Okrent explains, seeking a way, perhaps, to eclipse founder Dyke’s reputation. He says that he and his group —which includes fellow, New Trier students Katie Muth, Elizabeth Leavey, Charlie Maher, Tom Mcgarry, and Jonathan Shenkman —tried its hand at assisting at a soup kitchen over the holidays. “We’re a small group,” he says, “but in need of a bigger part.”
Hence a return to the highly successful toiletry collection drive, which last year amassed an amazing 816 hygiene kits.
Like his predecessor, Okrent has a passion for helping others. The New Trier swimmer is a regular volunteer for the high school’s social service board. The student-directed board seeks community-based opportunities to connect students with those in need, and encourages students to volunteer after school. On select Mondays, Okrent and others can be found aboard a bus headed for Manor Care, a Wilmette nursing home. The students provide much-needed company to Manor Care residents. Okrent finds the volunteer work fulfilling.
While he’s yet to select a particular vocation, the teen knows it will involve helping others. “I can definitely see myself with a career in the social services,” he says, “but I haven’t decided on what direction I’ll take.”
The collection bins will be at both The Grand Food Center’s Winnetka store at 606 Green Bay Road, and its Glencoe store, at 341 Hazel Avenue.
For those interested in making a financial contribution, please make your check out to Glencoe Union Church, 263 Park Avenue, Glencoe, IL, 60022-1398, and write “Night Ministry” in the subject field. To learn more about this collection drive, send an e-mail to email@example.com.