Taking a closer look in your bathroom drawers, you may be surprised to find out just how many bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotions you have accumulated. These bottles of hygiene items are a luxury for some people, especially those who had to suddenly flee a violent domestic situation.
This came as a revelation to women’s basketball player Joyous Tharrington, BA Sociology ’13, when she was enrolled in professor Angela Hattery’s course, WMST 300 The Social Dynamics of Family Violence, last fall.
In the class, “We talk about all forms of family violence, including child and elder abuse and intimate partner violence,” explains Hattery, associate director of women and gender studies.
Women who turn to shelters for help get connected with many social services such as housing, childcare support and food stamps. However, she notes, food stamps don’t cover personal care items.
“Everyone knows how expensive shampoo and conditioner, lotion and soap can be. We know it’s expensive, we know it’s necessary. People love to give food, but they don’t think about washing your hair and keeping your kids clean,” explains Hattery.
Hattery came up with the idea to have sports teams collect toiletries they didn’t need from their hotel stays and donate them to Artemis House, an emergency shelter for families and individuals fleeing domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking.
Located in Fairfax County, Va., and operated by Shelter House, the shelter provides crisis intervention and temporary housing.
“Since Joy had her first away game over the [Thanksgiving] break, I challenged her and her teammates to collect toiletries and come back to donate them.”
For Tharrington, it seemed like a small challenge that would make a big difference. The next week she plopped down a bagful of toiletries collected while the team was in New Mexico for a game.
“For me, this challenge was a no-brainer. Our class has opened my eyes to so many issues concerning family violence, and I saw an opportunity to do my part and help,” says Tharrington.
Tharrington also got her teammates on board.
“When Joy told us about the project, I thought it was a great idea. We traveled often and had access to many toiletries we didn’t use and could be put to a good cause,” says Cierra Strickland, a junior management major and women’s basketball player. “The entire team did their part to help Joy have a successful project. For me, personally, it felt good to be able to use what was presented to me as a blessing to someone else.”
Not only did her classmates and teammates become involved but so did Tharrington’s parents. When her family stayed at hotels, her father told hotel managers what she was doing, and they donated a few boxes of toiletries.
Throughout the basketball season, the team collected toiletries from 12 hotels while they were at away games.
“It was great to be able to contribute and give back to people that are in need of small things that we are fortunate enough to have daily access to,” says Janaa Pickard, junior marketing major and women’s basketball player.
Last month, Tharrington took all the boxes of toiletries to Artemis House.
“With this donation, Artemis House will be able to provide those basic needs to those in such critical need,” says Joe Meyer, deputy executive director of Shelter House. “More than 200 women and children walk through our doors every year. It is people like Joy and institutions like George Mason that make Fairfax County a community that cares.”
Women’s basketball players aren’t the only student–athletes at Mason who donate toiletries. The track and field team collects toiletries and donates them to a local children’s program.
“Joy represents the best of our student–athletes. She is a natural leader who has inspired her teammates and coaches to join her in this meaningful project to help others,” says Sue Collins, senior associate athletic director for Intercollegiate Athletics. “It is always encouraging to see our athletic teams giving back to the community.”