Student collects sample soaps, shampoos to donate to homeless

High school junior Gillian Beers is hoarding sample-sized toiletries — soap, deodorant, shampoo. It arrives at her home and her dad’s office sometimes by the case, in part because he’s a dermatologist and companies like to give this stuff away. But also because she collects it, not for herself but for the down-and-out.

The poor don’t just need donated canned goods and second-hand clothes, sometimes they need to wash up, and Beers has inserted herself in that supply chain.

Every couple of weeks, the Dreyfoos School of the Arts student gathers her booty and delivers it to the county’s homeless center on 45th Street in West Palm Beach.

From there, volunteers plunder the donation to fill hundreds of Ziplocked shower kits to be handed out to those who need them. The center goes through about 200 to 300 kits a month, said Uwe Naujak, director of donation at the Sen. Philip D. Lewis Center.

Naujak says Beers has been very helpful, “She has all the right stuff we’re looking for.”

As for Beers, the drive to donate appears to be in her genes.

When her older brothers were in high school, they collected the lotions, potions and creams for donation. But they directed their efforts to help veterans, dropping the supplies with the local VA hospital, said their father Kenneth Beers.

It all began when the elder Beers dragged his kids to far-flung professional conferences, where on the periphery all sorts of companies would sample their wares from sunscreens to cleansers, he said. When it came time to pack up and go home, the representatives were generous with the leftovers and the kids would collect.

As word got out that the Beers boys were distributing the products to veterans, more donations poured in, their father recalled.

“Ultimately they started to collect tons of it,” Kenneth Beers said. One son landed on the American Skin Association’s education council, where he made contacts. “There were grants made by multiple skin-care companies” to put more products in the Beers’ donation pipeline.

But now both boys are in college and the samples piled up until their sister got the donation bug.

“I didn’t want to completely follow in their footsteps,” said the girl who lives in Jupiter but attends school in West Palm Beach — nearer her dad’s practice. “Their hearts were into helping the veterans. Me? I go to Dreyfoos. There are a lot of homeless in the area and my heart was connecting with them.”

So much so that Gillian Beers got herself a spot on the mayor’s youth council.

“A lot of what we do is about equity. We deliver care packages, set up events. It seems a lot of things have fallen into place around this one issue – homelessness,” Gillian Beers said.

Her last delivery came the day after Thanksgiving. The drop including about 50 bottles of sample shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers, body wash and excema lotion. She was planning to head back before Christmas.

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