Two pieces of news provide a flicker of hope amid the doom and gloom.
Dec. 23--Though her daughters are still very young, Boulder resident Catherine Lyle felt this holiday season was the right time to introduce them to the concept of philanthropy.
"As a parent, it's my job to make them the best people I can," she explains.
That is why the girls, Carson, 7 and Delia, 5, on the afternoon of Dec. 7 left school and headed straight to Boulder's Bridge House to unload enough toothpaste, razors, shampoo and other personal hygiene supplies to provide for the one-time use of 500 homeless individuals.
"We just want the homeless people to feel good so they can get a job," said Carson, who is a first-grader at Boulder Country Day School where her sister attends preschool. "It's almost Christmas time and we wanted to give them a really big gift."
"A really big one," Delia added.
The idea to collect personal hygiene items was based on a program Lyle was introduced to by her employer, the insurance and reinsurance provider Swiss Re. Employees with the company who traveled were encouraged to bring back soaps and shampoos from hotels they stayed at, then deposit them in a bowl that was later given to local homeless shelters or donated to the Red Cross, Lyle said.
Lyle had done some volunteer work at Bridge House and is a personal friend of the agency's executive director, Isabel McDevitt. She knew that the hygiene supplies were in high demand, especially for homeless people taking part in the Bridge House's Ready to Work program that sets participants up with contracted work projects and helps them on their way to employment.
Carson and Delia began soliciting donations at their school and from friends, family and neighbors in early November, Lyle said. Eventually the girls found their way the Hotel Boulderado, the Boulder Outlook Hotel and the local Marriott Hotel which all graciously donated soaps, shampoos toothpaste and other items, according to their mother.
Area small businesses including the dental practice of Dr. Pail Sica in north Boulder, My Kid's Dentist in Westminster and Boulder's Angles & Icons hair salon--where owner Monica McCarthy also pledged to provide some free haircuts-- joined the effort. By Dec. 7 the girls had collected an estimated 1,200 tiny bars of soap, 600-700 tubes of travel-sized toothpaste and hundreds of other items which the Bridge House has been dispensing on an as-needed basis ever since.
"At first the girls were a little hesitant about asking for things for their donation," Lyle said of her tiny philanthropists. "Once that momentum started they weren't shy about it and started asking other people they knew and really enjoyed it."
They even called on Santa Claus to help when they noticed that razors--among the most expensive items they sought to donate---were not being dropped off in large numbers. Mom and dad secretly bought a few packs and left them for the girls to find.
"It was so cute," Lyle said. "It was like, how could we not."
Bridge House greeter Le'Driedre Sease was on hand when the girls dropped off their donation earlier this month. She knows about the importance of personal hygiene and the impact of appearance when it comes to applying for jobs.
Sease moved to Boulder with her husband in 2011, homeless and in need of work, and credits the showers and items provided her at the Bridge House for helping her land her first job in the city after filling out 27 applications in one month.
Now, Sease is housed and is in charge of dispensing those same hygiene items to the Bridge House's clients each day.
"Their hygiene is of the utmost importance, especially for those trying to better themselves and get jobs," said Sease. "I know how important it was for me."
McDevitt said that Carson and Delia's efforts might even have a positive impact on Bridge House clients beyond when their donation runs out, as it has inspired her to reach out to hotels and other businesses to see if she can arrange direct donations in the future.
McDevitt noted that the Boulder community has no shortage of giving souls, but Carson and Delia's efforts were especially meaningful to her because of what it means for their perception of homeless people.
"Homelessness can be confusing for kids, even scary. So, to have children involved even indirectly helps break down those barriers and helps them understand the issue from a base level," McDevitt said. "It's humanizing the homeless, which is so important."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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