More than 50 people of all ages recently met at the Madison Area YMCA’s TOGETHERHOOD® event to sort through tons of soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and mouthwash to fill more than 400 toiletry kits for the homeless. 

An amazing part about the event was the level of community engagement it brought. Along with Y members and volunteers, several local organizations and nonprofit groups became involved. The items were donated through drives held at the Madison Area Y, Grace Episcopal Church, M&T Bank, Holy Family Church and local dentists’ offices. Groups that helped prepare the kits included Fairleigh Dickinson University students from the Pre-Health Society, Student Wish List Project, employees of the Madison office of HLW International, a design, architecture and planning firm, Junior League of Summit members and a Chatham Girl Scout troop. It was TOGETHERHOOD®at its finest.

TOGETHERHOOD®, the Y’s signature program for social responsibility, empowers members to plan and lead volunteer service projects that address the needs of the community. Working side by side with neighbors and community partners, TOGETHERHOOD® volunteers make new friends, improve lives and contribute to a stronger and more inclusive society. 

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“We had a great day,” said TOGETHERHOOD®committee member Carol Stavraka who spearheaded the project for Bridges Outreach, Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves homeless populations in parts of New Jersey and New York City. The toiletry kits were sent to Bridges Outreach which will carry out the distribution. “It was a hands-on project that didn’t require any special skills. Anyone of any age could help--children and adults helped make a difference together.” 

Fairleigh Dickinson University freshman Simi Kalayilparampil, the vice president of the Pre-Health Society, said, “As a group, we wanted to find a local event to give back and found this. We were happy that it also was a good fit with our society’s mission of promoting good health and hygiene.”

Tania Lee, executive director and co-founder of Student Wish List Project, a Madison-based nonprofit created to help charities and children's hospitals increase their wish list fulfillment by tapping into student volunteers, said that TOGETHERHOOD’s event was one of 30 donation drives that the group has participated in since the organization started in the fall.

“The Y is a hub in our community,” said Amie Herman, the Y’s senior director of organization advancement. “This event reflected our commitment to social responsibility, youth development and healthy living while engaging community partners, other nonprofits, places of worship, businesses, schools, neighbors and children. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to bring together like-minded people of all different backgrounds for a common good.”