Thursday, January 27, 2022
8.0°F

New group helps collect school, hygiene supplies

by AMY QUINLIVAN Mineral Independent
| November 3, 2021 12:00 AM

“Most of us don't think twice when we are buying things like toilet paper, cleaning products, diapers, and so many other things. But imagine if you were at the store and only had $27 to last you the entire month, but needed toilet paper, body soap, laundry soap, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. You do not have enough money to buy all of these products, which would you choose?” That’s a difficult scenario that Superior resident Amy Kelsey has not only pondered, but lived out as a child growing up and as a parent.

Kelsey who has lived in the area for over 25 years has had her share of seasons of feast and famine. It was through those hardships that she developed a passion for serving others because she knows firsthand the complicated dimensions of being impoverished.

“I’ve struggled with addiction, lived through years of domestic violence, and was in trouble with the law. I have been clean and sober for six and a half years and have wanted to give back but just didn't know how to do it,” she shared.

Once she became sober and became steadily employed Kelsey still needed support. She said, “I would struggle all the time, but thank goodness I had family that was there to always help me, not everyone has that.” That’s normally where social programs step in and individuals can find aid in their community.

And when communities focus on helping the needy, typically the first met needs are housing and food. That’s how Kelsey came up with the concept of new assistance program called Pathways to Help Mineral County. She stated, “Not many people know about Hygiene Poverty. The everyday products and items that we take for granted are products that those in poverty long for. It’s just heartbreaking to me to have to think about, so that is the direction we chose to go.”

According to the United States Census Bureau for 2020, the population of Mineral County is 4,535. The poverty level is 15.6 percent. This means that over 600 people in the county live below poverty level. Kelsey noted, “These numbers are going to be increasing at the end of October, due to Idaho Forestry Group shutting down. This will add 99 more people to this list. The National level of poverty is 11.4 percent. She added, “Our county is spread out with small communities that don't get the help or opportunities that you see in bigger cities.”

After recently finishing school to become a Community Health Worker, Kelsey has kept busy with other jobs while also brainstorming the framework of Pathways to Help. Originally the group started with the ambition of using Crowdfunding to give to families in need during Christmas time in Mineral County.

But just before the school year started, Kelsey knew of a couple children that needed assistance with affording school supplies and clothes. She then went on Facebook and asked around several community groups if anyone was interested in donating. Kelsey exclaimed, “I was amazed at the amount of people that wanted to help. I had so many people wanting to help that I was able to help out 21 kiddos get either school supplies, school clothes, or both!”

Inspired by the positive responses she explained, “This never would have been possible without our community jumping in and helping. I have always wanted to help people and this made me want to do it even more.” And that’s when Kelsey decided to do this right, she would need to start a nonprofit. “I started looking into it and doing research. I reached out to a couple people in the community for advice and guidance, like Mary Furlong and Laurie Crawford,” said Kelsey.

And important aspect of Pathways to Help Mineral County, is that is doesn’t overlap with other assistance programs. Kelsey remarked, “We looked at the different types of help that were already out there. We thought that there are Food Banks, Snap Benefits, and other varieties of ways to get help with food, but there isn't much help with the other things. We looked into what lower income or poverty level households lack.”

After creating a focus area of how to help local families, they needed to formulate what they could offer and how to attain the items. For the upcoming Christmas giving project Kelsey detailed, “Our next step was to figure out what the cost of all of this was going to be. So, I broke it down to each child and then the family gift. Each child would get a new winter coat, winter boots, gloves, hat, 2 warm outfits, socks, and 2 gifts, this cost is between $200 and $250.

Next is the family gift, which would consist of toilet paper, paper towels, tissue, body soap, laundry soap, dish soap, tooth paste, tooth brushes, feminine hygiene products, diapers, wipes, etc. As well as a family-oriented gift set, like a movie, board game, popcorn, snacks, and drinks. She estimated that cost to be around $250.

Off the top of her head, Kelsey easily came up with close to 20 different families that could benefit from these gifts. And on average each family has 3 children. Adding it all up she quickly realized, “The 20 family gifts total $5,000 and the kiddos gifts would total $15,000, for a total of $20,000. That number was shocking and scary to me.” She added, “I thought there was no way I would be able to do that, so I started brainstorming some more. That's when I thought of the idea of doing a donation drive type thing at the same time. If I could get part of the products donated it would lower the cost.”

To get the word out she made a facebook group called Pathways to Help Mineral County. There she shares the mission of the group, ways for community members to contribute, facts about hygiene poverty, and updates on how they are doing with their cause.

Kelsey explained, “Laurie Crawford is working on a Newsletter that we are going to distribute to businesses and post on bulletin boards to also get the message out. We are also working on donation jars that we are going to go around to our local businesses and ask to place there. I have talked with a few already and even have one that has offered to match the donations that they get at their store!”

The groups donation list will soon be posted on some of the bulletin boards around the county and it can also be found on their facebook page. Currently Kelsey, and Laurie and are receiving the donations until they can secure a couple of public drop off locations.

Some needed items include: hats, gloves and mittens, scarves, stocking stuffers, board games, family movies, coats, boots, socks, underwear, and gifts for ages 0-18 years. They are also collecting hygiene items such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, diapers, trash bags, shampoo and conditioner, soap and body Wash, dish soap, paper towels, Q-tips, tooth brushes, and toothpaste.

“We do ask that all items are new and in the original package for health and safety reasons. We will also be accepting cash donations. There will soon be donation jars, and a donation account Mullan Trail Bank. You can also contact Laurie or I to arrange something,” said Kelsey.

Closer to the Christmas season they are asking for volunteers to assist with wrapping gifts, preparing the family gifts, drop offs and deliveries. The group could also use volunteers to help organize and run future fundraisers. Kelsey mentioned, “Another way to help is to commit to adopting a kiddo to buy some or all of the things on the list. This is what I have done in the past with helping kiddos go back to school. And another great way to help out our cause is to just share about what we are trying to do to get the word out.”

And one doesn’t have to look far to see a friend or neighbor in need, whether its next door or a student in a classroom.

“I do feel like poverty is an issue in Mineral County,” Kelsey expressed. And that’s why she’s motivated to make a change. “The purpose of this group was to raise awareness of how much poverty is affecting our community and ways that people can help out.”

Kelsey is working towards nonprofit status for her group within the next year. There are many steps involved to become a nonprofit, not to mention the cost. She said, “I don't have a lot of money, but realized that wasn't going to stop me from helping others. Even if I couldn't pay for a bunch, I had the skills to organize a way for everyone to help a little.”

“I am hoping this group can make a huge difference,” conveyed Kelsey. Aside from back-to-school assistance for children and Christmas gifts for families, they are hoping to establish a more frequent way to get hygiene products to locals in need. She explained, “Have it set up sort of like a food bank but for other household items that you can't get on Snap benefits. Where people can come in once a month and get some things they need. These are such huge goals but I feel very passionate about doing this and helping the community I grew up in and I have some amazing people backing me, supporting me, and working alongside me. There is no way I would ever be able to do any of this by myself.”

To arrange a drop off for donations contact Amy Kelsey at (406)531-9976, or Laurie Crawford at (406) 544-3329. You can send an email for more information at pathwaystohelpmt@gmail.com

Recent Headlines