Community unites in successful toiletry drive

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — As the Love for the Holidays Toiletry Drive hosted by Marion County Indivisible (MCI) comes to an end, the Rambling Root hosted MCI and the Weathered Ground Brewery as a way to bring the community together while helping others during the holiday season.

MCI is a community organization recently formed to create change to benefit all of Marion County through its advocacy, service and education.

On Nov. 24, MCI started a toiletry drive to donate to those individuals in Marion County who are experiencing homelessness this holiday season.

Multiple drop-off sites were located in Fairmont where citizens could drop off any toiletry items. As of Wednesday, MCI president Jenni Lesmann said the organization has collected more than 1,900 items.

“We have made over 50 bags for men and for women,” Lesmann said. “We have put those together to include shampoos, soaps, razors, hair products, feminine hygiene products and all kinds of stuff.”

Lesmann also said that the organization has 2-3 boxes of extra items which it hopes to distribute to local pantries.

The organization plans to start delivering items today.

“Our members are going to focus on giving the packets to the two shelters in Fairmont, Scott Place Homeless Shelter and the Union Mission,” Lesmann said.

“Extra items are going to be delivered to agencies that aid in emergency assistance, so we are going to be taking some of those extra items to the Soup Opera for their pantry because they have showers and stuff upstairs where they can probably use a lot of those items we collected.”

Lesmann also hopes to donate some of the items for young children that they received including diapers to HOPE Inc. More items will be donated to the Connecting Link as well, which helps prepare people with emergency assistance and items that help avoid homelessness.

“We are just trying to include as many agencies that we know of that really impact homelessness in our community,” Lesmann said. “It has gone a lot better than we ever imagined it to go.”

Citizen Candice Inch, who has been spearheading a blanket drive for the homeless within the community, also teamed up with MCI to distribute her collections. According to Lesmann, Inch had collected more than 200 blankets to hand out to the local homeless.

“Between the two initiatives, it has really gone so much better than I think any of us really imagined it to be,” Lesmann said. “It’s refreshing as a Marion County resident to see this kind of reaction to a need. We are always told if you need something done, do it yourself, but in this case, they asked us for help and our community was very quick to respond.

“Our business partners were eager to partner with us and help, and our members were eager to spread the word, and people have been really receptive and quick to donate when we asked them to.”

When Lesmann asked the Rambling Root to use its space for an event to end the drive, she said the owners went above and beyond just allowing them to use the restaurant.

“As soon as I said, ‘Hey, can I have this event at your restaurant?’ they went above and beyond that,” Lesmann said. “They were like, ‘OK you can use my space, and then I’ll up you.’ It was really unexpected and appreciated that they were so willing to say, ‘What can I do?’ and deliver that. We are really grateful for them.”

The Rambling Root hosted “Tap Takeover the Holidays with Weathered Ground and MCI” Wednesday evening where people could enjoy the Weathered Ground Brewery’s six limited-release brews on draft and donate whatever items to the MCI toiletry drive.

Lesmann said the event was not only to gather more donations, but to also say thank you to those who have donated and recognize their response to the need.

“We are really excited and know how awesome this is,” Lesmann said. “The community has really come together to help out. It’s truly inspirational.”