JOYCE — When Debbie Gilliam spoke to Jackie Jones at Olympic Community Action Programs about donations of hygienic items for Crescent School seventh- and eighth-grade students, she got more than she expected.
Gilliam told Jones that some children’s parents had been hit hard by bad economic times and hygienic items sometimes fell by the wayside, so Jones took it upon herself to work with Port Angeles Food Bank Executive Director Josie Gilbeck to find donations.
The two purchased as many items as they could.
“I thought that we might end up with a few travel-sized bottles,” said Gilliam, who teaches middle school math and science at Crescent.
“But when I got to Jackie’s house, she had all this stuff that was full-sized.
“It was really amazing.”
40 bags filled
Jones and Gilbeck collaborated to fill 40 bags — the only kind of bags they could readily find were Christmas gift bags — with toiletries such as shampoo, creme rinse, soap, hair gel and other accessories.
Jones said she had at first thought to ask for help from other members of the Soroptimist International Port Angeles — Jet Set, but when the moment came at the meeting, she didn’t speak up.
“I am the new girl in the group, and I just didn’t know if I could ask them for something like this,” she said.
Gilbeck sponsored Jones’ membership in Soroptimist, and when Jones mentioned her mission, Gilbeck was immediately on board.
“She and I just started working to get stuff together,” Jones said.
The goods were delivered to the students Sept. 7.
“When they came back from the Labor Day weekend, I had it all set up for them when they came in the room,” Gilliam said.
“They just couldn’t believe it.
“Immediately, they knew the monetary value and that this must have cost a lot of money.”
Thank you notes
In students’ thank you notes to Gilbeck and Jones, some told of their excitement about being able to spike their hair with the hair gel, which was a luxury their parents couldn’t afford.
One child, grateful because his or her parents couldn’t afford the toiletries, hoped that the soap and other cleansers meant that now the teasing would stop.
“Reading something like that, it makes everything I do with my life worth it,” Gilbeck said.
“I do this for my work, but you don’t always hear this kind of response.
“That one note, that a child might not be made fun of because now they can wash themselves — that makes everything worth it.”
Gilliam offered the chance for children who felt they didn’t need the items to return them so they could be redistributed. Only one child took her up on it.
“I’ve heard from the kids and from parents,” she said. “They are grateful.”
She said hygienic items — especially at the delicate middle-school age — are often not thought about as necessary.
“Sometimes the kids or the parents don’t realize the need for deodorant,” she said.
Jones and Gilbeck said they were considering continuing efforts for classrooms, and Gilliam said she would pursue donations for next year.
“In this kind of economy, people don’t realize what the needs are,” Gilliam said.
“We are lucky at Crescent because for both seventh and eighth grade, I only needed 40 bags.
“But other larger schools might not be able to get everything they might need.”
Reporter Paige Dickerson can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at email@example.com.