Alexandria Mills, 15, has been collecting toiletries for people in need since she was about 7 years old.
The idea started by collecting shampoos and soaps from hotels where she stayed on trips. It then grew to her encouraging her family and friends to do the same. At the time, she would make a donation of the items about once a year, she said.
Alexandria said she chose to collect toiletries because people remember to donate food and clothing for those in need, but the need for toiletries is often forgotten.
“It’s the little things in life you take for granted until you don’t have them,” she said, “and there are people that don’t have them because they can’t afford them.”
Her charitable effort – Give Soap for Hope – has grown into a much busier operation. Alexandria ramped up her efforts to collect toiletries at the end of the school year and over the summer, even taking her efforts international during a mission trip to Jamaica.
Cannon School, where she is a sophomore this year, allowed her to set up collection boxes, posters and to make announcements about seeking donations for Give Soap for Hope at the end of her freshman year.
Alexandria, who is the granddaughter of auto dealer Randy Marion, and is a familiar face on billboards around Lake Norman advertising the auto dealership, operates Give Soap for Hope out of an office space at one of Mooresville’s Randy Marion car dealerships. Donations also can be made to a box at the Cadillac building at 220 West Plaza Drive in Mooresville. She has also tried to increase collections that way.
Alexandria also partnered up with the Mooresville Christian Mission this year for help distributing Give Soap for Hope bags to those in need in the city she lives in. This summer, she donated about 60 bags to the mission.
Alexandria said she is lucky to have a supportive family. She attributes her desire to help people in need to her grandmother, Betty Marion, who taught her the importance of giving back from a young age.
Each toiletry bag distributed by Alexandria – they’re often decorated with pretty ribbon – contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, soap, shampoo, conditioner, a washcloth and a Bible verse. The Bible verse Alexandria includes was the verse her other grandmother, Jean Mills, gave to her when she was born. Alexandria said her grandmother gives each of her grandchildren a verse to memorize and always remember. She was given Philippians 4:8, which reads, “Fill your mind with those things that are good and deserve praise. Things that are true, noble, right, pure and honorable.”
Alexandria went on a mission trip to Jamaica over the summer with Williamson Chapel United Methodist Church. She took extra luggage on the trip with her to bring about 30 Give Soap for Hope bags to distribute at the orphanage and infirmary the group visited. Though Alexandria always empathized with people who could not afford toiletries, her visit to the infirmary opened her eyes to what it is like to live without such basics.
It was a hospital-like setting, she said, in which 40 patients packed into a hall shared one bathroom.
“It was a ‘wow’ experience for me.”
Many of the people she gave bags to asked her for bags to take home to family members.
Alexandria was also able to take her violin and play for the people the group served in Jamaica.
In the future, she has plans to place collection boxes for toiletries in all of the Randy Marion dealerships rather than just the Cadillac building, and to designate one specific day a month as a donation day. Randy Marion billboards will probably also have an added blurb about collecting toiletries for Give Soap for Hope, said Betty Marion.
Alexandria wants to continue to take her efforts international, but said she also does not want to forget about the people who need help in her hometown of Mooresville.
“While soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste are small basic items, they are very important to a successful day,” Alexandria wrote on www.givesoapforhope.com.
“From job interviews, or going to work, it is important that we look and feel our best. When you are down on luck, these basic essentials may be just the thing you need to help you get back up.”