After years of traveling hundreds of thousands of miles annually working for the luggage company Samsonite, Chuck Weisbart had amassed a collection of hotel toiletries filling several bathroom drawers. That's when he had an idea: why not donate this overload of single-serving shampoo and body wash bottles to an organization helping the homeless?
For over fifteen years, Weisbart's Palm Desert travel store It's ... in the Bag has served as a collection point for toiletries, which he hands over to the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission on a regular basis. There, the hygiene products are used by resident clients of the mission's rehabilitation and rehousing programs, as well as those using the emergency shelter.
More than one-fourth of the U.S. homeless population lives in California, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"There are at least 250 people who are taking a shower here once a day," said Scott Wolf, Development Director at CVRM. "That's a lot of shampoo."
The mission is always seeking donations of all sizes, but the travel-sized toiletries have a logistical advantage: they don't have to be passed around. Given the high number of clients the organization serves every day, having individual hygiene items to hand out to each person helps things move more smoothly, Wolf said.
For Weisbart, collecting these items also made sense from an environmental perspective.
"Everybody's got a drawer, then two drawers, three drawers," Weisbart said. "I don't want it in a landfill."
By donating them to the mission, these small items can make a big change in a person's life. Hygiene is an important step toward's regaining control over their lives for the mission's clients, including the hunt for a job and housing.
Some specialty items, especially for their female clients, is what the mission still struggles with when it comes to their beneficiaries.
"A lot of times, anything to do with the female gender gets overlooked," Wolf said.
Women at the mission might need hair dye to prepare themselves for a job interview or need feminine hygiene products. "We have a huge need for that," Wolf said.
The mission is always looking for donations, either directly to their Indio location or by way of Weisbart's store. "Basically: anything you have in your bathroom, we need here," Wolf said.
Weisbart is happy that through the project, his jet-setting customers and he have found a way to give back to the community and raise awareness for the issues faced by some of the desert's less fortunate residents.
"People go around the world on all these missions, and they don't even realize the need that we have here in the desert," Weisbart said.
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