When I came up with my Live Lighter This Spring blog series I knew immediately I wanted to share the stories of those that are doing amazing things within our communities. My friend and fellow PVD Lady Project member Liz Duggan of Amenity Aid is just that person. Amenity Aid is a 501(c)(3) charity that provides personal hygiene products to at-risk and in-need individuals. Established in 2013, Amenity Aid helps Rhode Island's most vulnerable populations by supplying toiletries to organizations that assist the homeless, at-risk, low income and victims of violence. Assisting nearly 4,000 people each year, Amenity Aid has donated over 22,000 personal care products to date.
After seeing first-hand the need for toiletries in local shelters, Liz founded Amenity Aid in 2013 to ensure every Rhode Islander has access to basic hygiene products that aid in good health. Working with local shelters, community groups and businesses, Liz has developed a variety of programs that collect, purchase, and distribute items such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo to the area’s most vulnerable populations.
In addition to her involvement with Amenity Aid, Liz manages the marketing department for a Rhode Island based management consulting firm and runs a freelance graphic design business.
Liz holds a Master of Business Administration from California State University, a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Salve Regina University and has taken several continuing education courses in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design. Yes folks, this chick is pretty amazing and I am so honored that she took some time out to provide us with some insight into her inspiration behind Amenity Aid, as well as some sound advice for those who may have goals to begin their own charity organizations.
What prompted you to start Amenity Aid?
The idea for Amenity Aid came from the simple act of donating hotel amenities from my frequent business trips to local shelters. (In fact, the word amenity in our name is reference to the hotel amenities that inspired the charity.) I quickly learned about the high demand housing facilities have for these necessities. Other than food, toiletries are the number one consumable product in-need at organizations that assist the homeless or at-risk.
I was motivated to help an organization that provided hygiene products to vulnerable populations. However my research concluded that no nonprofit existed with this sole mission. I saw an opportunity to fulfill a great community need that I could not ignore.
What's your greatest memory/take away so far since starting Amenity Aid?
My greatest memory is taking my eighty-eight year old grandmother with me to deliver hundreds of toiletries to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport. Before that experience, I don’t think she really understood what Amenity Aid was all about. Now she gets it and is always giving me soap! My biggest take away is the wonderful people I get to meet because of my involvement with Amenity Aid. From the men and women that work at area shelters to our amazing volunteers, it’s a great opportunity to connect and collaborate with others that truly want to make a difference.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a charity organization?
I would advise anyone who is starting a charity to stay focused on their mission and on tasks that deliver the highest impact. It’s very easy to allow the day-to-day activities and opportunities to control how you spend your time. As a result months go by and you lose track of your goals.
People will constantly offer advice or opportunities, which is a great thing. But before you jump at everything that presents itself take a step back and think about what you are trying to accomplish and the availability of your resources (for me it’s time). Then consider if this particular opportunity is the best use of your time or charitable funds. It’s ok to say no.
For me, having a working business plan makes it easier to say no to certain opportunities without feeling like I am doing a disservice to Amenity Aid. This is because I have already taken the time to review all prospects, discussed them with peers as well as industry mentors, and selected the programs and strategies that will have the greatest impact.
There is always more you could be doing, especially when it comes to charitable work. For me, it’s about prioritizing and focusing.
What is the best advice or things you have heard from others, since starting Amenity Aid, that sticks out in your mind?
A friend of mine once told me, “You know you really are helping a lot of people, even if it doesn’t feel like you are.” This statement was very perceptive. Considering Amenity Aid does not directly work with the homeless, at-risk, or victims of violence it’s very easy to forget my impact once I drop-off the donations and leave. It was a nice and unexpected reminder.
If you'd like to learn more about how you can help, Liz Duggan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Amenity Aid please visit www.amenityaid.org. My hope is that this post inspires you to clean out those bathrooms, gather up toiletries not being used and take a moment to donate to Amenity Aid. Let's all live a little lighter so that others can live better.