Direct Relief’s warehouse was full of volunteers of all ages on Wednesday and Thursday working together to assemble 3,000 Personal Care Packs for their neighbors in need. They spent the day placing the donated items into a bag to be boxed up and shipped out to 32 social service agencies throughout Santa Barbara County for the low-income and at-risk individuals they serve.
Kelly Walker brought her three sons who are 11, 9, and 6 years of age. She wanted her boys to get involved at a young age and do something more hands on. “It’s nice to give back to those who need it more than us,” she said.
The Personal Care Pack program, which began more than 20 years ago, provides personal care supplies to vulnerable people in Santa Barbara to improve their health and quality of life. The packs contain basic hygiene items like lotion, soap, shampoo, facial cleanser, hairbrushes, combs, tooth brushes, tooth paste, dental hygiene items, basic first aid supplies and other assorted toiletries. All of the supplies are donated to us by companies including; Henry Schein, Inc., Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Meda Pharmaceuticals, Prestige Brands, and Sappo Hill Soapworks.
While it may not be obvious at first glance, poverty and homelessness are prevalent in Santa Barbara County. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of people in Santa Barbara County living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level increased from 34% to 39%. The number of homeless in the county is growing as well. The exact number of homeless individuals living in the county is estimated to be between 2,000 and 6,500, many of whom do not have access to basic hygiene items.
Some of the volunteers have been helping with the packing day for several years, while some joined for the first time. Janet, who came to help with her daughter’s softball team for the first time, enjoyed the experience. “I’ll definitely do it again,” she said.
Personal Care Packs are assembled twice a year, once in August and once in December. Each year, the packs from both packing days help an estimated 22,000 people within Santa Barbara County. The program is part of Direct Relief’s ongoing Safety Net Support.