A young WSUMC member dedicates a small free hygiene pantry to the underserved in the soup cellar

Lydia Conte shows the contents of the Little Free Hygiene Pantry.

Thanks to recent high school graduate Lydia Conte, Washington Street United Methodist Church (WSUMC) has opened a small, free hygiene pantry in its soup cellar. Conte’s idea was to create a pantry of hygiene products that most of us take for granted and make them available every day for those less fortunate. For those partaking in the meals served in the Washington Street Soup Cellar, Lydia’s Little Free Hygiene Pantry is now open.

With Reverend Becky Shirley and others at the church, Conte was brainstorming ideas for her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Looking back on the many service projects she had enjoyed in the past, she realized that some of her favorite experiences had been helping out in the Washington Street Soup Cellar.

“When I was little, I always loved being part of Mary’s Maiden Circle. Filling bags full of hygiene products for soup cellar customers during the holidays has always been one of my favorite things to do,” Conte said. “I knew I wanted to do something to honor the impact this had on me under the guidance of Mary Lide and Kathy Wright. They taught me to feel the joy of caring for others.

The small free hygiene pantry

The small free hygiene pantry

His idea was simple: to provide hygiene products all year round to people in need. The soup cellar was a perfect outlet to reach this community, which is why the idea for the Little Free Hygiene Pantry was born. A cabinet purchased from a thrift store was refurbished and stocked with 10 different types of travel-size hygiene products. Now diners can browse and take what they need when exiting the soup cellar.

Personal hygiene is so important, not only for physical health but also for good mental health. When personal hygiene declines, it can easily lead to self-esteem issues, which are just as dangerous and damaging for adults as they are for teenagers.

Washington Street’s Soup Cellar has been feeding the underserved for over 40 years. Meals are served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to anyone in need. Each year, the WSUMC Soup Cellar serves more than 4,000 meals. Volunteers from various local churches help prepare and serve meals each week. For more information about the Soup Cellar, please contact Robbie Douglas at rdouglas@wsmethodist.org.

Donations to the Little Free Hygiene Pantry can be made online at wsmethodist.org/giving or by visiting the Little Free Hygiene Pantry Wish List on AmazonSmile at smile. amazon.com/hz/charitylist/ls/3HOHKMA2BJHUW/ref=smi_ext_lnk_lcl_cl.

Washington Street was established in 1803 and was the first Christian place of worship in Colombia. In January 2016, WSUMC updated its statement of identity to reflect the vision of the church and its congregation: “The congregation of WSUMC praises and serves God from the heart of the city in a way that reaches our close neighbors and distant. We welcome all who seek the love and mercy of Christ, regardless of race, creed, age, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic status. We honor the traditions rooted in our history, our expression of worship and our respect for theological curiosity. We nevertheless consider vital change and continuous renewal as essential to spiritual growth.

Washington Street welcomes everyone for worship at 11 a.m. on Sundays at its historic shrine or via Youtube live stream each week. Sunday school is offered to all ages and the crèche is open to newborns up to the age of three.

To learn more about WSUMC, its missions, classes, and social interest teams, please visit wsmethodist.org or visit 1401 Washington Street.

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