How many rolls of toilet paper do you use a year?
For some of Long Island’s homeless shelters, that number can be upwards of 30,000.
However, toilet paper, among other toiletry items such as soap and feminine products, are considered luxury items and not included in state or federal funding, forcing items the general public often takes for granted to be as plentiful as donations allow.
Knowing this, the Congregational Church of Patchogue, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2913 and American Legion Post 269 have joined forces to build the world’s largest pyramid of toilet paper to both raise awareness and support for the Long Island Against Domestic Violence shelter in Islip, United Veterans Beacon House and Long Island Harvest.
LIADV, according to executive director Colleen Merlo, utilizes about 3,000 rolls of toilet paper yearly, none of which is covered by governmental funding, while the United Veterans Beacon House uses close to 30,000 rolls among their 38 locations across Suffolk County.
The numbers are staggering and, according to commander of the VFW Dave Rogers, Suffolk County is home to the largest veteran population in New York State, with nearly one-third living in homeless shelters, halfway homes or transition housing. LIADV houses women, children and sometimes men at their 16-bed shelter.
“I really want to be a part of this,” said Rogers. “It’s absurd that the government lists toiletry items as a luxury. You can get so many other things before you can get toilet paper. The amount of donations the veterans and women have to depend on is insane.”
To ease those concerns, thus far about 1,200 rolls have been donated and/or are dedicated to be donated the day of the event, which will take place during the second Alive After Five® of the season on July 19 at Capital One Plaza on Main Street. That day, members of the VFW, Legion, Church and Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce as well as volunteers will be on hand in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the tallest toilet paper pyramid. According to the Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter of the Congregational Church — who thought up the idea of a public display to bring awareness to the issue — the current record is 24,000 rolls of toilet paper standing with a 14-by-14-foot base pyramid. Their goal is to break that record by utilizing 25,000 rolls to build a 15-by-15 base pyramid that should stand approximately 9 feet tall.
After all is said and done, proof and an application will be sent to Guinness World Records and Merlo explained that though it might seem small, the money that would have normally gone towards purchasing 3,000 rolls of toilet paper would now be able to be used for much-needed services such as childcare, transportation or an additional counselor.
And even if the record isn’t broken, Rogers and Wolter said the biggest accomplishment will be raising awareness and letting people know that toilet paper is considered a luxury item and that all toiletry donations are severely needed.
“It’s hard to get people to talk about homeless veterans’ or battered women’s shelters, but by collecting toilet paper, as a metaphor it eases a way into the discussion,” said Wolter, hoping the display would start a larger conversation. “Toilet paper is a vastly overlooked basic need and it’s so omnipresent. It’s one of those assumptions like when you turn on the water and it comes out. No one thinks about that until it doesn’t.”
The request is for Scotts or equivalent sanitary, septic safe and individually wrapped toilet paper rolls for uniformity, as well as individual and business sponsors for the event who would like to donate multiple rolls of toilet paper. Though actual rolls are preferred, money will also be accepted for the purchase of additional rolls. Check donations should be made through the 501(c)(3) Congregational Church of Patchogue with “Operation TP” in the memo. Drop-offs can be made at the church as well, at 95 East Main Street in Patchogue during the following times, or by appointment:
Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, 4 to 9 p.m.
Thursday, 7 to 9 p.m.
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
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