Most toddlers clamor for candy and toys. But the three girls who recently accompanied their mother to the YWCA were pleading for toothbrushes.
If the family had shown up this week, they would have been turned away.
The shelves at the YWCA Necessities Bank are bare. A 100 percent increase in the number of families using the bank has stripped it of the personal hygiene products that usually fill its shelves.
On Wednesday, there was no toothpaste, no razors and only 10 rolls of toilet paper left.
“This has not been a very well-funded program, but it is crucial for some people,” said Jan Marx, YWCA development director.
The Necessities Bank is one of the few places where needy people can get free items like shampoo, soap and deodorant. Those items are in high demand because they cannot be purchased with food stamps and are not provided through any other federal welfare program.
“We fill a gap that nobody else fills,” said Fran Green, director of women’s youth and multicultural services at the YWCA. “When a woman who’s living on the edge starts her period and she doesn’t have the money for tampons, this is where she comes.”
Last year, the Necessities Bank served between 200 and 250 families a month, Green said. Since June, an average of 450 families have come in each month.
This isn’t the first time in its five years of existence that the operation has closed down, Marx said.
The bank is supported primarily by private donations of money and goods. Occasionally a business will serve as host for a drive or a hotel will donate the needed items, Green said.
Many of the supplies are given to students at the YWCA’s homeless school, Green said.
The Necessities Bank used to have a loyal group of donors who kept the shelves stocked, Green said. But lately, the donations have dwindled.
“I think people just forgot about us,” she said.
Items most desperately needed include adult and children’s toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, toilet paper, laundry detergent, bath soap, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products and body lotion.
Goods or money can be dropped off or mailed to YWCA, 829 W. Broadway, Spokane, WA 99203.