By Jenna Moldaver |
Two and a half years ago, Loch Arbor resident Stacy Wiener began crocheting soap sacks on the beach to donate to local homeless shelters. 7,000 sacks later, Wiener’s creation has made its way not just across Monmouth County, but across the world.
The design is simple. Each soap sack is made of cotton yarn and is 4 by 6 six inches, the perfect size to hold a standard bar of soap. A paper tag with a short message is attached to each one, giving the donation a more personal feel. Thousands have followed suit and together have formed a movement Needle now calls S.A.C.K. – Supporting A Community with Kindness.
Not only is crocheting these sacks a fun, easy activity, but it also targets a particular need Wiener noted in her community.
“Throughout the under-served population, there’s definitely a need for toiletries,” she said. “Realistically speaking, if people have extra money, they’re going to buy food for their family. They’re not going to go out and buy a bar of soap.”
The function of the sacks is twofold; they can act as a wash-cloth or a place to store the soap. Wiener provides the soap in her donations.
Local recipients of these donations include Red Bank’s Salvation Army, Lunch Break, the Holmdel Community Bridges Program, Fulfill, United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, St. Anthony of Padua in Red Bank and Christ Church in Middletown.
Wiener’s movement doesn’t stop there, though. Her soap sacks have served villages in Cambodia, where poor hygiene breeds illness and disease. Linking up with CNN Hero Samir Lakhani, who began a project in college to provide these villages with soap, Wiener has offered her creation to these areas as well. Now, these villages not only have soap for the first time, but a clean, convenient place to store them as well.
Soon, through the nonprofit organization KURA Project, Wiener’s soap sacks will benefit young girls in northern Kenya. On top of receiving the soap sacks, these communities will also receive knitting and crocheting lessons so that they can replicate the sacks.
However, Wiener’s impact at home in the U.S. cannot be over-stated. “There’s so much need in the U.S. too,” she said.
So far, the S.A.C.K. community has participants in 43 states. Wiener is reaching out to the remaining seven in hopes of seeing the movement become truly nationwide. She has also applied for 501c3 status, which will likely be granted within a month or two. With this certification, Wiener hopes to gain corporate sponsors like Dove or Zest to further expand and grow the movement.
Even with all of its growth, the S.A.C.K. community remains strong in Monmouth County where it began. People of all ages are involved in the process. Girl Scouts and Key Clubs organize soap drives, while senior centers and adult communities knit and crochet the sacks. Members of the S.A.C.K. movement include both friends of Wiener and complete strangers, all of whom are encouraged to follow the S.A.C.K. Facebook page to connect, share tips and encourage one another.
“I want to keep the soap sack community inspired and to inspire others,” said Wiener. The Facebook page currently has 4,000 likes and showcases the wide variety of service the members of S.A.C.K. are able to do.
Wiener is thrilled with the movement she has created, and is always looking for opportunities to put her soap sacks in the hands of people in need. Whether on road trips or vacations, Wiener never travels without first looking into the needs of the community and identifying places that could benefit from her donations.
Ultimately, she is proud to have launched an initiative that has given so many people an outlet to give back.
“Once people donate, no matter where they live, whether it’s Monmouth County or Arkansas, they love it and they get this good feel,” Wiener said. “They’re hooked because it’s just so rewarding.”
More information on S.A.C.K. can be found at www.soapsacks.com.
This article was first published in the June 28-July 5, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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