As the holiday season fast approaches, it brings with it the spirit of giving that has come to so greatly characterize it. Though most people merely extend this spirit to giving to their friends and family, some people hope to help others by giving to those less fortunate than they. Until the very end of the semester, ProHealth is holding a toiletry drive on campus to collect personal care items, benefiting the Catherine Street Community Center which helps those in need.
ProHealth and the Community Center worked together on this drive to fundraise and grow awareness for local and global public health care cause. The Catherine Street Community Center is one of many pre-existing beneficial organizations in the Poughkeepsie area. Its purpose is to promote and coordinate educational programming to enrich the lives of individuals and children and families, according to their website. ProHealth also works with the Community Center in treating HIV/AIDS patients. As an organization, ProHealth fundraises and volunteers at the Center.
ProHealth Treasurer Colin Crilly ’15 wrote in an emailed statement that Pro-Health has been seeking to partner with others to assist whomever they can. “Over the last couple of years, Vassar ProHealth has been interested in collaborating with and providing support to Catharine St. Community Center, because of all the incredible work that they have been doing for low-income HIV/AIDS-positive residents of Dutchess County.”
He added that they wanted to be able to provide something useful to those in need. “We asked the staff at Catharine St. what they were specifically unable to provide to the people they served, and they focused primarily on their need for toiletries, because those items are not covered by the food stamps that low-income Dutchess County residents depend on. The decision to have a toiletries drive was therefore entirely based on the needs of Catharine St. at this time,” said Crilly.
ProHealth President Lena Josephs ’16 added that the Community Center doesn’t have other ways to provide toiletries. “It was suggested by them that we hold a toiletry drive, since the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) does not cover personal care items.” This is the first time that they have held this toiletry drive.
The purpose of this drive was to not only help out people at the Community Center, but also to increase the ties between Vassar and the Poughkeepsie community. In order to support the fundraiser, all you need are extra, unwanted toiletries. Drop-off boxes are located in the Main Library, the College Center near the post office and the front entrance, ACDC and Rockefeller Hall until Dec 19. Josephs wrote, “Small sizes are ideal.”
Though it is not the first time ProHealth has fundraised with the Community Center, it is the first time they have had this event. “We have never had a toiletries drive before, which is exciting, since I think that it’s a group of important supplies for low-income individuals that are not often highlighted,” Crilly wrote.
There have already been donations, and ProHealth is looking forward to collecting many more. Josephs wrote, “[W]e have received toiletry donations and we expect to receive more. We do think it will be successful!” Crilly added that the only issue that the staff is expecting is space. “We do not have a definite goal in terms of how many supplies we are hoping to attain. The only issue that Catharine St. was worried about was having enough space to store everything that we donate, but since we have a couple of seniors in ProHealth who are willing to keep these toiletries in their houses, we would much rather have too many donated toiletries than too few!”
The drive was relatively easy to plan. Crilly had to spend about a month emailing back and forth with Catherine Street representative Jackie White at the Community Center to brainstorm. Much of the time was spent waiting for White to get approval from the rest of the Catharine Street Community Center staff. According to Crilly, the drive was completely cost-free. “But once we were given the go-ahead, it was just a matter of taping the list of requested supplies to some cardboard boxes, and we had a drive ready to go!” ProHealth didn’t collaborate with any other orgs on this drive because of the low cost and the minimal amount of work required. Crilly added, “We’ve already collaborated with both the Biology department and CHOICE this semester, so I like that we are doing something entirely of our own doing.”
ProHealth and the Community Center’s past collaborations have included several events, such as the Condom Couture events held every year. Josephs wrote, “Our annual Condom Couture charity fashion show and concert fundraises for the Catharine St. Community Center, which assists HIV/AIDS infected people in Poughkeepsie and aims to educate the Vassar community on the disease to reduce its stigmatization.”
In addition, ProHealth works closely with Partners in Health to support maternal health in Haiti and four sites in Africa and Planned Parenthood. Their meetings are used to open discussions and reflect upon local, national and global public health issues.
ProHealth appreciates being able to step outside of Vassar and help the surrounding community through their connection with the Community Center.
“We were excited to be able to do this for them,” Josephs wrote. “The ProHealth club greatly values our connection to the Catharine St. Community Center and [we] wanted to become more involved with their work.”