How often do you think about a hot shower as being a luxury?
Many people probably don’t. They are fortunate enough that regular bathing is simply routine; they don’t give it second thought.
For people who experience homelessness, however, a hot shower is a rare luxury indeed. And the lack of one can stop people from taking the steps they need to make real changes in their life.
That’s why Mel Trotter Ministries, a faith-based homeless services organization in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently debuted a mobile shower unit featuring three private shower stalls and a hot water tank.
They did so with the help of two lead gifts—one from Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids and one from Amway.
Amway’s involvement started with a simple request for a donation of biodegradable, eco-friendly soap to supply the unit. That’s not an uncommon ask for Amway, which got its start in 1959 when its founders began selling soap.
One of the people receiving the email was Jim Ayres, managing director of Amway North America. He knew Amway could do more than simply donate soap.
“In these very troubled times so many are in need. This is even more true for the homeless in our community,” Jim said. “This simple project to provide what most of us take for granted…a shower…basic hygiene…is for the homeless the kind of thing that can restore dignity, self-worth and positive attitude.”
‘I just want to be clean’
In an interview with Fox 17 News, Mel Trotter President and CEO Dennis Van Kampen said that’s the message they hear from the people they work with. He relayed a conversation one of their caseworkers had with a woman who is homeless.
“The caseworker said, you know, what would help you right now? What would help you move forward, but what would also help you right now? And the lady became really emotional and she said, ‘I don’t remember the last time that I had a shower and I just want to be clean,’” Dennis told the reporter.
“How do you go in to a doctor’s appointment or a job interview if you haven’t been able to shower? So, it was just really a huge need.”
The shower unit will visit areas where the people who need it often gather and will provide 50-70 showers a day, complete with towels, soap, shampoo and undergarments as needed. Outreach staff will also be there to provide resources and the goal is for a medical component to be added, as well.
Meeting a need
Jim said they were happy to be able to go above and beyond the ask for soap, although they are providing that, too.
“Following the example set by some great Amway employees who created hand sanitizer to donate to local hospitals, sometimes we just need to step up and meet a need,” he said. “Things like this are why our employees love Amway. It’s why I’ve been here for 41 years.
“It’s a great company, great values that we really live, and great founding families.”
To learn more about Mel Trotter Ministries or donate toward their homeless service efforts, visit meltrotter.org.
The email requesting support for the mobile shower unit came from Rhonda VanDyk, a former Amway employee who served as the event and corporate sponsorship specialist for Mel Trotter. We were saddened to learn that Rhonda passed away in November from COVID-19.
One of her last major accomplishments for Mel Trotter was securing Amway support for the mobile shower unit. “Her legacy will live on through that ministry, which will go on to help thousands of people,” Mel Trotter Chief Campaign Officer Tim Swiney said. “That is who Rhonda was, she always wanted to help others.”
Our condolences go out to Rhonda’s family and those who worked with her at Amway and at Mel Trotter.