Boston Family Donates Toiletries to Meet Health Need and Provide Empowerment
For almost five years, Jeff and Loren Feingold shared their two-car garage in Massachusetts with some 5,000 bars of soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
"It was pretty tight," remembered Jeff, a portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments and founder of Hope and Comfort, a nonprofit that provides personal hygiene products to children and adults in need in Greater Boston.
He relied only on his daughter Grace and son Kenny to help load the cars to take items to local food pantries to distribute.
"For those first years, I only had two employees, ages three and five,” he joked. “We had a foot or two to walk in the back between the cars [a minivan and a hatchback] and the three wooden pallets that I put on the ground to stack the items."
Founded in 2011, Hope and Comfort can credit Kenny and Grace for its beginning. Mom and Dad, who met volunteering at a camp for children with cancer, wanted to start teaching their kids the importance of giving back to the community.
"When Gracie was turning two, we wanted to do something different to celebrate her birthday," said Jeff, a Harvard business school graduate. "We've been blessed as a family and in our work and in life and decided that our daughter didn't need another toy."
He parlayed Grace's 2nd birthday party in to a donation party for the local chapter of Cradles to Crayons, which works with homeless and low-income children. He asked parents to bring gifts to contribute. Some wrapped clothes but most brought basic personal care products like baby wipes and diapers and clothes. After the drop off, Jeff got a call from a social worker; they started talking. "I didn't know at the time but toiletries were the one of the largest unmet community needs."
The rest is history. This year alone Hope and Comfort has already giving away 100,000 personal care packets through its regular monthly distributions, including to 5th and 6th graders in a dozen public schools and to 13 food pantries. They also make one time donations to many other organizations like Dress for Success.
"We hear stories about girls hiding in the bathrooms at school because they are embarrassed because of their odor," said Jeff who has empowered more than 900 volunteer hours for the Soap for Hope program directing volunteers to fold brochures to packing hygiene kits. "This isn't just about health. It is about confidence and dignity."
In kind product donations are made locally and come in from across the country, totaling $600,000. On weekends, Jeff spends time figuring out the most cost effective and efficient way to work together -- not only with corporate sponsors but with other like-minded organizations.
"Nonprofits fail or succeed because of focus," Jeff said.
How does Jeff stay focused? Here are some of his tips:
1. Make Yourself Obsolete
"Remember that you aren't walking down a path that hasn't been done before," Jeff said, pointing out there are thousands of nonprofits in and around Boston. Learn about their challenges and listen for a win-win opportunity to join together to service the community. "Meet with as many of them as possible," recommended Jeff who, at last count, met with 30 this year.
2. Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Ask yourself, "What assets does an organization have that I may need?" said Jeff. The goal of his 501(c)(3) has been to give away as many items with as little cost as possible "but also importantly to have the most impact." That was why he partnered with food pantries and public schools so he didn't have to waste time, money or energy on creating distribution channels that were already effective in the community he served.
3. Inspire and Motivate
Teach others how lucky they are by organizing individual and corporate volunteer events. Grace, now ten, recently organized her own donation party with thirty of her friends. "She has not asked us for a traditional birthday. Neither has Kenny."