An overcast Wednesday found me parking in front of a nondescript storefront in a graffiti-tagged section of East Sprague Avenue.
I had come to look at the command center of the most good-hearted Spokane charity you’ve probably never heard of.
Project Beauty Share, it’s called.
The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization has a simple, straightforward mission. It collects donations of makeup, toiletries and hygiene items and then gives the products to women who lack the means to buy even these most basic necessities of life.
I’m talking about things most people take for granted, like: Soap. Cosmetics. Toothpaste. Toothbrushes. Toilet paper. Perfume. Lip-gloss. Shampoo and conditioner …
Marianne Bornhoft, a Spokane Realtor, is the president of Project Beauty Share. She explained the impact of her group by relating what happened to her a few days earlier.
Bornhoft loaded her SUV with 100 pounds of the above items and drove to a local women’s shelter where she found an unexpected welcoming party waiting in the rain.
When Bornhoft opened her vehicle and began hauling out boxes, the long line of women began clapping their hands.
“I felt like Mrs. Santa Claus,” she told me with emotion choking her voice. “It overwhelmed me.”
I’ve considered Bornhoft a good friend for 20-some years. When she called looking for help getting the word out about Project Beauty Share, I was all-in after hearing that story.
Spokane, like every city, has a hidden population of people who struggle every day.
Struggle to eat. Struggle to find shelter. Struggle to survive …
Programs like 2nd Harvest food bank are invaluable. Other charities provide vouchers for housing or thrift store clothing.
Toiletries and hygiene products, however, are rarely covered.
“You can’t buy tampons with food stamps,” said Bornhoft.
Enter Project Beauty Share, which began in 2009 as a happy accident that has changed a lot of lives.
Julie Farley, owner of the Make-Up Studio in downtown Spokane, said she was with an older client who had brought in some age-inappropriate makeup.
Farley said she believes in “tough love.” She told the customer she “might as well throw it away.” The woman, however, mentioned that it would better to donate the makeup at a charity where she volunteered.
That light bulb of cartoon fame clicked on over Farley’s head.
“I’m in the beauty industry,” she began thinking. “I have a shop. I have customers …”
Project Beauty Share soon was born. It became a legal nonprofit in 2010 and now serves thousands of women through 13 area charities.
“It’s a very rewarding thing,” said Farley. “I definitely go to bed knowing that we’re doing good things.”
Project Beauty Share, she added, is “growing and it’s good and it’s still around. What’s unique about us is that we collect day in and day out. We’re doing this all day long.”
Like all charities, this one is on a constant quest for volunteers, corporate sponors, and donations in both products and, of course, money.
(Check out the Project Beauty Share Facebook page or its website www.projectbeautyshare.org for details.)
Bornhoft opened the door and led me inside to the space Project Beauty Share rents at a steep discount. There’s a receiving room for incoming donations. In another room, volunteers sort and sanitize the products.
There are boxes of gift bags sprouting pink tissue paper. They’re filled with items designated for a teen rehab facility.
A colorful sign hangs on one wall. “The beauty is in the giving,” declares the message under the logo.
On another wall is a pegboard adorned with appreciation letters from donors.
“Thank you for all the ways that you help improve the lives of the people you touch,” reads one.
“Hopefully some of these new and gently used beauty items can help women in need,” reads another.
Bornhoft said the biggest challenge facing Project Beauty Share isn’t getting donations from companies. A recent huge shipment, in fact, has filled much of the headquarters with boxes of high-end hair care products.
She’s not kidding when she used the word “huge.” The delivery amounted to two semitrucks filled with 60,000 pounds of items.
On this day, I helped Bornhoft load four boxes into her car and then followed her to the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter. No line of clappers awaited. This was an impromptu visit.
But Jeff Wright, director of development and communications, couldn’t have been happier.
“Soaps and hygiene products are always in high demand,” he said.
In the parking lot, Bornhoft told me that the ongoing struggle for Project Beauty Share is on the local front, in getting the word out and finding donors who will embrace the cause.
“This is such an inspirational thing to do,” said Bornhoft. “I don’t know why people wouldn’t want to help out.”