One of my favorite little pleasures is after checking into a hotel room to look in the bathroom to see what fun toiletries they have. I just love the cute little shampoos and conditioners and the fancy little soaps. In some places, if you forgot something you can call the front desk and they’ll bring you razors, toothpaste – whatever you need! Such a luxury.
Of course I don’t mean that soap and shampoo are a luxury… or are they? In some parts of our very own country, toiletries are such a luxury that some people actually do without. Sure, if pressed, we could all do without hairspray or makeup or aftershave. But to do without soap? Toothpaste? Deodorant? Toilet paper? Unthinkable.
But that is exactly what 15-year-old Summer Allen saw during a family mission trip to the Appalachian Mountains in the summer of 2011. Pastor Curtis Manning and his wife Barbara of Defuniak Springs periodically take a truck full of household goods to KY, and the Allens helped load the truck. While doing so they heard so much about how destitute the people there were that they decided to follow the truck to KY. When they got there, they were shocked to see just how terrible the living conditions really are. Talking to the teens, kids her very own age, really made an impact on Summer. “They know they look and smell unkempt. Most have very low self-esteem, no pride and little hope for a better and different future,” Summer says. “Their families do not have enough money for food and day-to-day living, let alone for the simple things most of us take for granted like shampoo, soap, deodorant, tooth brushes, ail care, etc.”
On their way home from that first trip to KY, the Allens starting thinking of ways they could help. Summer’s mom, Ann Hadsall-Allen, works in the resort business and said people leave tons of toiletry items behind. They also talked about all the things people have in their kitchen and bathroom cabinets they they don’t even use. Would it be possible to collect these items and give them to the families in Kentucky?
So Summer and her sister Haleigh approached hospitality managers to ask them to collect the unused and unfinished items people left in the rooms. Then asked everyone they came across to search their own kitchen and bathroom cabinets for items they no longer use. They made some cool collection boxes and put them in stores such as Walgreens and Lenny's Sub Shops and at FWB High School. And the donations started rolling in. Summer’s friends banded together to help collect, sort, and box the items, load the truck, go to KY, put bags together for the families and deliver them. And the Destin Nation Mission Team was born.
Destin Nation Mission grew so quickly that they now collect and sort the items in a huge warehouse in Destin. Friends help sort and tag the items so that every type of toiletry can be easily found. Pastor Manning delivers the toiletries to Pastor Pete Combs and his wife Brenda in Beattyville, KY, deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and one of the poorest parts of the U.S. They have a storage building on their property to store the deliveries. They bag assortments of items for the neediest families in their area and make the deliveries. Brenda shares items with churches in nearby towns to give to families in those areas as well….Vicco, Irvin, Hazard, Booneville, Leatherwood, Rogers, Manchester, Saul, Oneida, Jackson as well as above the border in Lexington, IN. Once a year when school is out, Summer and her friends are also able to go to distribute the items and meet the families.
“Many need help in other countries, but after going to KY, I realized that many in our own country need help just as bad,” explains Summer. “This is why we named our mission Destin Nation Mission. We are ‘Destined to Help Those in Our Own Nation.’” They have provided bags of toiletries to over 800 people since they began in Sept 2012, and many have received donations more than once. “Brenda says people call her all of the time to see if they have received more toiletries from us yet.”
Items that families constantly need and ask for are shampoo, soap, deodorant, toilet paper, feminine products, dental items, and shaving products. They need cleaning items too such as laundry detergents and dishwashing soap. Daily medical supplies like bandages and over-the-counter medicines are also in demand.