This week’s Community Helper series continues by promoting the hard work of Heidi Prahl of The Family Radio in Appleton, and her involvement coordinating the “Help for the Homeless” Hygiene Drive, which kicked off on Feb. 19 and runs until March 12.
It’s the 25th year of the drive and is part of a coalition between crisis agencies and supplying them with toiletries, such as soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, deodorant, diapers, ect. As the coordinator, Prahl has overseen its substantial growth through the years.
“I’m amazed,” Prahl said of how far the drive has come. “It apparently has hit critical mass. People are understanding how important it is. They’re telling their friends and they’re telling their co-workers. It is taking place in 15 different communities in central and northeast Wisconsin. These are just the most basic items you would need.”
In the 15 communities, this year there are 89 crisis agencies that reach out to the public and invite them to donate items by placing out collection boxes. Public donation boxes can also be found at Festival Foods, Shopko stores, and Walgreens locations. Locally, communities such as the Fox Cities, Oshkosh, Green Bay, Seymour, and Waupaca represent nearly 53 participating crisis agencies where people in the area can help a great cause.
“When people are in this episode of tremendous financial need, they cannot afford to buy these things,” Prahl explained. “The bottom line is we have children going to school in dirty clothes, unable to clean their faces, teeth, or their hair properly because there just are not those products at home.”
Prahl says that early on, kids inherently believe there’s something wrong with them simply because they might not be able to have access to proper hygiene products, which can affect their self-esteem.
The hygiene drive had definitely found its niche by encouraging the donations of these items. While the conception of the drive originated before Prahl began at The Family, she’s played an integral role in its growing success.
“We were over the moon when one year there was something like $2,000 worth of products that came into our organization’s basement,” Prahl remembered. “We sorted it ourselves and we delivered it to the agencies. What we started doing was collaborating with the homeless and housing coalitions in all of the communities, saying the more people who are sharing the burden of the work, the more people we can reach.”
Helping others is a clear passion of Prahl, something she’s always grateful to have the opportunity to do. She does acknowledge that she’s been blessed to have the help of others who know how to work with big organizational development.
“I follow Christ and I believe we all have gifts,” Prahl said. “Where we all are going together is providing hope, dignity, and relief, and relieving suffering for people, so it’s a blast.”
While the drive continues to be successful, that’s not to say Prahl did not face obstacles along to way to her current position. Prahl remembers looking for a new job before joining The Family Radio and recalls telling a temp agency that she was good with projects. Their response was that they believed the most she’d ever do was organize a Christmas party.
“That put a fire in my belly,” Prahl remembered. “I thought, there’s a place for each of us where there will be people who recognize our gifts, invite us, welcome us, employ us, and share our ideas with others.”
With the increasing support for the “Help for the Homeless” Hygiene Drive, there’s always a need for more, which is why there’s a continued focus on reaching out to even more local communities.
“If people don’t have a drive in their community, the need is everywhere,” said Prahl. “Whether it’s you personally buying an extra jug of laundry soap and dropping it off at the Salvation Army or your local shelter, or it could be something you do with a group of people you know at work or at school. This could be a wonderful event for a club at a school. All it takes is for someone to say let’s do this.”
Those wishing to donate items can do so locally at The Salvation Army in New London, the Seymour Food Pantry, St. Vincent De Paul and Community 2000 in Seymour, CAP Services and Foundations for Living Inc. in Waupaca, among numerous other participating agencies in central and northeastern Wisconsin.
Heidi can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or also by phone at (920) 749-9364. Be sure to checkout the drive’s Facebook page for more information.
Since 2008, communities participating in the drive have donated $2 million worth of hygiene items to their local crisis agencies.