One third of all homeless families in the United States live in Florida. The number of homeless families that utilize the services provided by the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida has risen by 25 percent in the past year. The statistics we heard at Clean the World headquarters near downtown Orlando today were equally stunning: Every day around the world 9,000 children die of preventable diseases linked to inadequate sanitation. Meanwhile here in the U.S., we throw away 1 million bars of soap every single day.
But the need of the world for soap, and the mountains of slightly or never-used soap generated by the hospitality industry is a “match made in heaven,” said Clean the World CEO Shawn Seipler.
This morning, as a part of Convening Leaders 2013’s Hospitality Helping Hands (HHH) initiative, enthusiastic event professionals volunteered their time at the Coalition, and Clean the World — an organization that repurposes used hygiene products for the needy. (Read about the beginnings of Clean the World here: convn.org/cleantheworld.)
Clean the World offers CSR programs throughout North America, helping hundreds of local homeless organizations annually. Ninety percent of the organization’s staff was originally unemployed or homeless. The Coalition offers beds to 240 homeless Floridians, including men, women, and children, and provides refuge and a hot meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to upwards of 800 homeless citizens daily. Both organizations are passionately dedicated to the cause, as passionate as the PCMA attendees assisting them today.
“Each year the program grows and grows,” said Jean Tracy, chair of the Hospitality Helping Hands program and national sales manager for George Fern Exposition & Event Services. “People want to help out and give back.”
At the Coalition, HHH participants served breakfast to the 240 men, women, and children that stay at the shelter. Others painted the facade of the building, or organized incoming donations, diligently sorting through boxes and bags of toothpaste, hand soap, razor blades, and shampoo for easy distribution.
Next we visited the Clean the World headquarters, where they process more than 10,000 bars of soap daily. During the event at Clean the World, HHH participants got a chance to see up close how the nonprofit is making a difference. We toured the sweet-smelling plant —where Clean the World sorts and processes soap and amenities collected from participating hotels, then sanitizes and recycles them and distributes it to children and families around the world. Since 2009, when Seipler and Paul Till founded Clean the World, the organization has donated 12 million bars of soap to 67 countries.
We also got a chance to pitch in, by assembling hygiene kits – shampoo, soap, washcloths, razors, and a personal note of encouragement — for homeless individuals and families at the Coalition. Sanitation is a serious domestic problem, Seipler pointed out, for the homeless.
The group assembled more than 1,800 hygiene kits. The energy and passion at Convening Leaders is always high, but today we had the opportunity to extend its reach to those in need, helping little by little to fight the fight that the employees at the Coalition and Clean the World have dedicated their lives to.
As we watched newly pressed cakes of soap heading down a conveyer belt toward boxes to be shipped out to places where soap can save lives, Rachael Nocera CMP, sales manager for the Vancouver Convention & Visitor Board had these three words: “This is humbling.”