Cleansing and compassion: 11-year-old leads drive to collect toiletries for homeless vets
The bags are piling up at the Cottage Grove home of Emma Malicki. One-gallon Ziplocs bulge with miniature bottles of shampoo, body wash and deodorant, along with toothbrushes and other personal hygiene products.
The kits, known as "hygiene bags," will be distributed to homeless veterans.
Malicki, 11, began collecting the items through American Legion Post 98 in St. Paul Park, where she volunteers.
"It all started because my Grandpa (Daniel Mogren) is a veteran," she said. "That's how I got into doing it."
She offered to contribute to an ongoing project by Lynn Duffy, president of the American Legion Auxiliary 3rd District.
"I was working on a project for homeless veterans," Duffy said. "She decided she was going to help with it and do all the hygiene bags."
Malicki's sixth grade classmates at Cottage Grove Middle School pitched in. Malicki takes a nonfiction reading strategies class taught by Jeannie Kilgore.
"We read an article about homeless teenagers," Malicki said. "We were having a discussion and I brought that up. My teacher said, 'That's a really cool project.'"
Touched by Malicki's compassion, Kilgore shared the project with her other reading classes and challenged them to donate. They collected over 600 items.
As for the man whose own military service inspired her — "He was really proud of me," Malicki said of her grandfather.
Malicki is the honorary junior president of the American Legion Auxiliary 3rd District. Later this spring, the Junior Auxiliary will begin collecting school supplies for children of military service members.