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Toilet Paper

One of the things I did today was go to Costco and buy 300 rolls of toilet paper. 

Here's the story of why: 

One of the youth -- a twelve year old! -- at the church I serve, The Falls Church Episcopal, has a ministry, and that is to provide toiletries to the homeless who attend the monthly “Welcome Table” across the street at The Falls Church Presbyterian Church. (This is the same church that welcomed and gave space to The Falls Church Episcopalians during the recent six year exile from our property, so there is a long and good relationship between our faith communities). 

The homeless gather for dinner at The Welcome Table one Wednesday per month. A couple of years ago there were only twelve or so guest

Now each month they have 200 folks or more attend.

As one part of the evening they are invited to go upstairs in groups of ten or so and pick a toiletry to take home: either a roll of toilet paper, or a bar of soap, or a tube of toothpaste, or a toothbrush, or a bottle of shampoo.

Only one. 

They can take either a roll of toilet paper, OR a toothbrush, OR a bar of soap, OR a bottle of shampoo, OR a tube of toothpaste.  

I attended last month and was suprised at how many of them picked – and even instructed their children to pick – a roll of toilet paper as their one thing.

When some went to take another item, and were told “sorry, only one item,” a couple of them traded in the roll of toilet paper for, say, shampoo. 

But most kept the toilet paper. Apparently it is often the most in-demand thing to take.

I stood there thinking, “if that's the case, why not give everyone a roll, plus whatever else they want?” 

When I asked that question out loud, they said, “because all this is donated, and we just don’t have enough rolls of toilet paper to give everyone a roll: we'd run out.

I thought to myself, “you have got to be kidding me."

In Northern Virginia, in one of the wealthiest counties in one of the wealthiest parts of the country in what is perhaps the wealthiest nation in history, we’re telling people that they can have only one effin’ role of toilet paper?!?

So last week I went and found someone to donate $1,000.00, that will cover, as a kind of start up, 300 rolls for 3 months

And this morning I borrowed Mary's van, and went to Costco, loaded up, and during a break today delivered them to The Falls Church Presbyterian:   

With the months of June and July already covered, I plan to spend those two months telling this story, and count on people's generosity to come through, from August on.
So when it comes to toilet paper and toothpaste, no one there will hear "either...or..." again!  


  1. I received a couple of commments on this I would love to post, but a reminder of the blog policy, please: in the interest of transparency and good dialog, anyone commenting must sign their post with their full name. Re-post with full names, please?

    1. Hi, John. I did sign my post with my full name yesterday but my "profile" was "Anonymous" because none of the other profiles work for me. I'll try one more time. Thanks for all the TP! We have enough for at least 3 more Welcome Tables I'd say! This "toiletries" component of our Welcome Table ministry is still a fledgling operation. The meal itself takes most of our energy, focus and volunteers; we also give out 250 $10 Giant grocery cards each month and are happy to have the help of the Rev Cathy Tibbetts for their distribution. As always, the partnership of TFCE is not only welcome but crucial! God bless you.
      Rachel Clark
      Welcome Table Planning Team

  2. Your premise is outstanding. Have you thought about using coupons to get much more bang for your buck? My wife and I routinely turn $100 into several hundred dollars worth of toiletries which we donate to the local shelter here in San Marcos, Texas.

    Referred to your blog by JBD


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