A few tubes of toothpaste, a pack of underwear, some gym socks and deodorant: To the average D.C. resident, these things might sound like the start of a routine shopping list. But to the clients of the McClendon Center, having regular access to common toiletry and hygiene items can mean the difference between living independently and returning to a mental health hospital for care.
The McClendon Center is a nonprofit charitable organization that was started in 1980 to help former patients of the now mostly shuttered St. Elizabeths Hospital. Each year, the Center aids more than 3,500 DC residents who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness to obtain housing and receive medical treatment, therapy, substance-abuse treatment and other assistance.
This year, with Metro Offices’ support, the organization is holding its first-ever Dignity Drive to gather toiletries, hygiene items, underwear, and other everyday necessities for distribution to McClendon Center’s clients. The 2018 campaign marks the first time that a local business has joined forces with the charity to undertake a Dignity Drive to benefit DC’s mentally ill residents.
"We first heard about McClendon Center through one of our clients, while we were researching ways to help the community," Kathlene Buchanan, Founder and CEO of Metro Offices said. "And everyone was really inspired by its mission of helping improve the quality of life for local women and men diagnosed with mental illness."
Metro Offices has a long history of philanthropy. In its 25-plus years, company team members have volunteered and raised funds for numerous organizations and causes, including Autism Speaks, Embry Rucker Community Shelter, and cancer prevention and cure. Metro Offices Founder Kathlene Buchanan regularly sponsors employee philanthropic efforts, and personally supports such local organizations as Jill's House and The House DC.
"We are so much a part of the community in Washington -- we're in Dupont Circle, Metro Center, across the river in Arlington and in many other locations -- that we felt working with McClendon was just a natural fit," Buchanan said.
The drive, which is underway, is asking for and accepting unopened, full- or travel-size personal-care products. Among the most requested items are: Hair care products, particularly those tailored for African-American hair, deodorant, women's and men's underwear and socks, adult diapers, hand cream and lip balm. The idea behind collecting these simple, everyday items is that if basic needs are met, McClendon Center clients will be able to put their energy and resources toward remaining independent and living in the community -- and will be less likely to have to live in mental health facilities, where many of them have previously lived.
"One-third of our clients are homeless," McClendon Center’s Executive Director Dennis Hobb said. "They often lack stable housing, and even those who live in group homes have to provide their own hygiene products. When you have limited financial resources, sometimes there just isn’t enough money left over for soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other products most of us take for granted."
Caitlin Gritt, an attorney with the law firm Bisceglie & Walsh, a Metro Offices tenant, was so inspired by McClendon Center's mission that she joined its Board of Directors.
"We're advocating on behalf of those we serve -- because many of them cannot speak for themselves," Gritt said. "I'm so grateful to work in such a supportive office space, surrounded by generous, engaged citizens."
Those wishing to help can contact McClendon Center’s Development Director Elissa Brooks (email@example.com) about donating items, or you may visit mcclendoncenter.org to make a financial donation.
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