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Laughlin Memorial Chapel Offers a Helping Hand With Hygiene

Photo by Alan Olson Martha Wright, left, and Darlene Stuckey prepare to welcome the first guests to the opening of the Health and Hygiene Closet at Laughlin Memorial Chapel in Wheeling on Monday.

When the supplies in local blessing boxes started showing a clear pattern, that hygiene products were the first to go, the next step in assisting Wheeling’s needy was clear.

The Health & Hygiene Closet opened its doors at Laughlin Memorial Chapel in Wheeling on Monday morning, brought into being through a partnership between the chapel, UniCare and other community partners such as the Ohio County Family Resource Network.

The closet will be available for use from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and other times by appointment by calling 304-232-2630.

Martha Wright, executive director of Laughlin Chapel, said the partnership and support for the closet was a great boon for the women who need help locally. The Laughlin Chapel also operates the Blossoms group to help unsheltered women network and find a community.

“I think it’s a great service to us,” Martha said. “We host the Blossoms program, really as a welcoming and time of respite for women, unsheltered and who may have very little time to have a community together. But this is just another way we can support people who are struggling in our community.

Wright said the Blossoms program sees around 20 to 30 people who come in on any given day.

Claudia Raymer, executive director of the OCFRN, said that since they started distributing blessing boxes throughout the county earlier this year — care packages available to anyone who needs their contents located at 6 locations throughout the county — hygiene products were always the first to be taken, ahead of shelf-stable food.

“What we’re seeing at our blessing boxes are that the hygiene items go first,” she said. “… The first blessing boxes were installed in January, so we’ve been able to see how those were utilized, what’s been taken, and it’s consistently the hygiene items that go first, even though there’s peanut butter, soup, and pasta, other shelf-stable items.

“We know you can’t buy these hygiene items with SNAP benefits,” Raymer said. “They’re not necessarily available at traditional food pantries.”

Darlene Stuckey, community relations representative with UniCare, said UniCare will financially support the establishment and help with the first year of maintaining the closet — at an estimated cost of around $2,000 — but hoped that the partnership with community businesses and donations would make it easy to continue going once established.

“We can help women less fortunate right now, who might not have a place to stay, who can come in, get shampoo, hygiene items, so they can cleanse their body, feel better about themselves, and have a little break and have these items without having to worry about buying them,” Stuckey said.

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