Volunteers packing gift bags with personal care items

It’s easy to get swept up in the latest gadgets and the newest toys this time of year, but there’s one person in our community who has decided to focus on something more meaningful during the season of giving. For the past several years, Laurie Strickland has dedicated the end of the year to a project she calls “Simple Gifts.” While everyone is out shopping for the perfect presents to put under the tree, Laurie is looking for basic personal care items like shampoo, body wash, and deodorant.

When the holiday hits, she calls on her friends and family to help her source these items and gather together to assemble gift bags full of them. Laurie has generously chosen to give the bags to people with disabilities living in the community with support from Community Living. “Some of these people have very few family members, especially those who have outlived their parents,” she wrote in an online post. Many individuals live on a limited income, too. “By providing these items, my hope is that the money they would have used to buy these can be used to do something more fun or to buy something that’s more fun than spending money on toothpaste!” Shea Young, Community Living’s Director of Residential Services, said “Our individuals look forward to these gifts each year. Laurie and those that assist in making these gift bags are greatly appreciated.”

This year, a group of Laurie’s friends, neighbors and relatives met in one of Community Living’s conference rooms to pack gift bags with toiletries and some additional items like nail polish and socks for 18 women and 32 men who participate in Community Living’s Residential program. Each bag is signed “From, Mary” in honor of Laurie’s late mother who she says taught her the importance of giving back. A quote from Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat is also printed on the gift tags—

“Be simple, be humble and bring joy to others.”

Nylon string bags full of personal items are also assembled for Youth in Need, a nonprofit that serves the greater St. Louis area’s most vulnerable children, teens and families.

“I would like to thank Laurie for her dedication and generosity. Her gift bags make an impact on our individuals’ lives in a tremendous way,” said Shea Young. We are so thankful for Laurie and the great impact these simple gifts make!