How to Make Hygiene More Equitable and Accessible: Meghan Freebeck from Simply the Basics (#18)

How to Make Hygiene More Equitable and Accessible: Meghan Freebeck from Simply the Basics (#18)

By
Dennis Kamprad

Publish Date:March 12, 2024

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How to Make Hygiene More Equitable and Accessible: Meghan Freebeck from Simply the Basics (#18)

Did you know that providing basic hygiene needs is one of the best ways to improve the health and well-being of those who are struggling? This and so much more is what you’ll learn in our conversation together with Meghan Freebeck from Simply the Basics!

“If you don’t have your very basic needs met, you really can’t focus on greater goals.”

Meghan Freebeck, Simply the Basics

Three Key Points You’ll Learn From This Episode

Why we need to take care of all the basic needs first…

Why it is so important to provide personalized hygiene supplies…

How tracking data helps them make a bigger positive impact…

About Meghan Freebeck

Profile picture for Meghan

Meghan is an experienced nonprofit leader with a diverse background spanning from Shakespearean studies to front-line social service work. Initially managing a homeless shelter in Chicago, Meghan later moved to San Francisco to work with the San Francisco Suicide Prevention and the Project Homeless Connect SF. Her unique journey from literature to addressing urgent social needs provided her with a profound understanding of the basic human requirements for dignity and health. This experience, coupled with her direct work with vulnerable populations, inspired her to establish Simply the Basics.

About Simply the Basics

Logo for Simply the Basics

Simply the Basics provide essential hygiene products to those unable to afford them and are recognized as the first large-scale Hygiene Bank in the nation. Their impact goal is to improve and sustain the overall health and well-being of the low-income community, people at risk of losing their homes, and people experiencing homelessness. As well as to save nonprofits time and resources by managing, securing, and redistributing their in-kind and hygiene-related needs. Inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they emphasize the essential role of hygiene in public health, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

Links and Additional Information Discussed

Check out Simply the Basics to learn more about them, make a direct donation, or contribute to specific supplies with their hygiene market

Use their Hygiene Locator to locally donate hygiene essentials to those hygiene banks in your neighborhood that are in need of your product donations

Follow Simply the Basics on their socials, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

The Full Transcript

Dennis: Hello. And welcome to the Impactful Ninja Show. I’m your host, Dennis Kamprad. And today we’re joined by Meghan Freeback from Simply the Basics. Meghan, welcome.

Meghan: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Dennis: Well, so glad having you as well. Now before we jump into your journey, give us a brief overview. What is Simply the Basics and what are you doing there?

Meghan: Absolutely. So Simply the Basics is a nonprofit organization that, in short, is focused on getting everyone in need hygiene care. Our goal is to make hygiene more equitable and more accessible for anyone in need of it. We are the first, not only nationally reaching hygiene bank, but also the first and only internationally reaching hygiene bank. So that’s really exciting. It means that our services are all over the world. And, you know, what we’re really trying to do is improve the physical health and the mental health and the societal health consequences that come from not having ongoing access to hygiene and the right hygiene supplies. We really believe that hygiene is a public health issue, and our hope is that anyone in need of hygiene is able to access it somewhere near them.

Dennis: Beautiful. Can’t wait to to get a little deeper into what that all means and what are the specifics that you’re providing. But let’s rewind a little bit. What did you do before starting Simpli the Basics? What’s your background?

Meghan: Always been very upbeat background. I first managed a homeless shelter in the city of Chicago for a few years. Well, I guess my previous life I have a master’s degree in Shakespeare.

Dennis: So Oh, wow.

Meghan: There’s a very previous life that has nothing to do with this. But once I transitioned in working into service work, I worked with people experiencing homelessness for quite a while. And then I moved to San Francisco, the city of San Francisco in California, and I was the director of San Francisco suicide and crisis prevention.

Meghan: So we were really focused on addressing really immediate high risk crises and people who are feeling suicidal. And from that was really a lot of where I gave the inspiration for Simply the Basics, seeing how often people were in a crisis and didn’t have access to their basic needs.

Dennis: So, basically, from Shakespeare to helping the homeless to preventing suicides and any kind of crisis. What’s a kind of a common threat when you say, like, oh, the basics are missing? But it’s easy to easy to imagine for homeless people that the basics are missing. They need to be provided. But was there also, like, a threat when you saw, like, oh, the prevention of suicide? Maybe some basics are missing then?

Meghan: Absolutely. So at the suicide and crisis prevention center, we would receive about 300 phone calls a day. And when someone is facing tremendous emotional mental health crisis, you can’t really jump in in that moment and say, let’s solve all your problems. But what you can try to do is reconnect to our basic human needs. You know? Have you had a meal today? Have you taken a shower today? Have you gone for a walk today? Just those basic human feelings. And what I was finding is that so many of the people calling simply didn’t have access to that. They’d say, well, no. I haven’t taken a shower because I don’t, you know, I don’t have access to hot water.

Meghan: I don’t have products for a shower. And so it really made me step back and look into Meslov’s hierarchy of needs, which is this philosophy that if you don’t have your very basic needs met, you really can’t focus on greater goals. And so it was unreasonable to expect anyone facing a crisis, not only in homelessness, but also, you know, in employment or maybe a disconnect from their family or substance abuse or mental health, whatever their crisis might be, it’s unreasonable for them to try to achieve that goal if they can’t even take a shower that day, if they, you know, if they can’t even brush their teeth. They can’t meet these basics. So it was in that job that I realized to truly support people when they’re facing a crisis, we need to make sure they have a really strong foundation first. And if somebody just can’t afford that or they can’t access it, that’s a problem. We have a really robust food system in the United States. There’s a lot of food banks.

Meghan: There’s food benefits program that you can register if you’re, you know, if you’re living in poverty to get access to food, but hygiene isn’t included on that. So I really recognized that there’s this basic that is simply not available to people, and there’s not a support system helping them get it. So that was that was definitely the inspiration was realizing that we could help people have this basic

Dennis: Oh, really sounds like a 3 fold 3 folds party. Like, on the one hand, from the muscle of pyramid, you know, like, okay. The basics need to be covered before you can advance and and go any higher in the up in the hierarchy. The second thing is when you were working with these people, you figured out that a lot of the basics are not met at the moment. And the third part then is that while also when it comes to providing the basics, food, shelter might be provided, but when it comes to hygiene, those things are currently not provided in the states. Yeah. Going along that line, what was your next step? Or when was that roughly in the timeline? And how did that lead to you starting simply the basics?

Meghan: Gosh. This is like 2014, 2015 when I really started seeing this. And, you know, in San Francisco, people experiencing homelessness, we have really, really limited shelter. It’s a really big issue. So if you ever visit San Francisco, a lot of people notice that people are sleeping outside a lot more than other cities. And so that was really hard for me coming from Chicago where I was managing a shelter, and there was space for people to go and be indoors and be safe. It’s very hard to I found that I would work all day at a suicide prevention center, and then my walk home was the hardest part of my day.

Dennis: Oh, wow.

Meghan: And that was so telling to me. That was the part that was feeling like I wasn’t doing something. So what I did was, you know, I’d already been working as director in a nonprofit and was well connected to people that had been working in services. So I approached a couple of people that I knew to be experts in their area, and, you know, we really started saying, what if we took a few months to try to understand this issue? I do think a lot of people see an issue and they wanna jump to a solution very quickly, but we wanted to make sure that we understood what was the gap. We understood what was the need, and that we were doing it in a way that could partner with people already doing the work rather than just trying to, you know, layer on top. So we spent about 6 months studying the impact of hygiene on health. We worked with the department of health. We worked with the local emergency rooms.

Meghan: We used that time to talk to people experiencing homelessness, people who, you know, have been close to homelessness or just are living at the poverty level, don’t have access to hygiene. And then the 3rd community, we spoke to our service providers. We talked to about 200 service providers that serve people experiencing homelessness to really try to understand and study this issue. And during that whole time, we were collecting supplies and getting them out to the community. We were doing drives. We were just trying to make sure people had the need. So then I guess I would say the 4th thing that I learned from it, which you kind of also need to start a nonprofit, is that people wanted to help.

Meghan: And that’s a really important piece because you’re relying on donations, can support and volunteer at in a way that their time and their gifts are actually useful easily.

Dennis: Oh, wow. So, basically, you had the problem already in mind, then you did all the research to confirm the problem. And then on the way to kind of thinking about the solution or putting the pieces together, seeing whom we could work together, whom we could collaborate, and already having in mind, like, okay, who might be the right supporters for you as well? What was the so you mentioned it was like 2014, 2015, took roughly 6 months. What was the concrete first step then for you to get simply the basics started?

Meghan: Well, it took about a year for us to get an official registered 5 0 one c three nonprofit status from the government. So we did work with some pro bono lawyers who helped us file all that paperwork. And then once that, you know, piece of paper came in that said, yes. You can accept donations. You’re a legal nonprofit. Go do the work. We really you know, we were all everyone involved, you know, we were still working our our regular jobs. We were doing this on the side.

Meghan: So I guess I would say one of the first things I did was I started tricking my friends into coming over and helping. I’d invite them over for brunch, but then they’d show up with some bagels, and I put them to work. It became a lot of my free time, a lot of my weekends, a lot of waking up at 5 AM to do a few hours of this work before I had to get to my regular job and then evening. And I would say that through all that time, the biggest thing we were doing was building relationships with service providers, with nonprofit partners because what we wanted to do differently you know, there’s a lot of truly wonderful community groups that might hand out hygiene supplies, but it’s often a onetime drop off. Someone can stop by and get supplies. And what we learned in our research was that wasn’t actually making a dent in hygiene and equity in people getting the right supplies or in their physical health. You know, I am gonna need different shampoo type than, you know, someone with a different hair type. I am going to need different toothpaste than a child or someone with dentures.

Meghan: And people were just kinda getting whatever was handed out, and their health wasn’t improving. So we really worked very hard to work with service providers to say, let’s not give your clients let’s not give these, what we refer to as recipients, a onetime item. Let’s actually get them what they need. And so I think that that relationship building and that strategy to get people what they truly need ongoing, it’s both what makes us stand out from other services in a really strong way, but it also took a lot of time. So I would say that 1st year, while we both hit the ground running with our early mornings and our weekends and our hours, it so much of it was going to places people in need were and talking to them and getting them what they needed, and then going back a month later to get them more of that. So, you know, that relationship building was a big part of it.

Dennis: It really sounds like when you wanna cover the basics, it’s not like a one off like, here’s like a shampoo. Here’s like a toothpaste. Here’s a bar of soap, and now your rest is set for the rest of it. It’s really like the continuous work. No?

Meghan: Yeah. We we track data. We think it’s really important that we’re not just handing things out, but that we’re actually people are seeing improvements in their life. And the 2 data points we track are, have we improved your physical health? And have we improved your feelings of wellness or your opportunities to achieve greater goals? A lot of the people we serve maybe recently lost their job but aren’t experiencing homelessness. And for them, their goal might be employment. So for them, we might be getting them laundry detergent, hair care, you know, deodorant, things like that. And they would say, you know, because of that, we’ve helped them achieve their goal of employability. Whereas an entirely different person might have a skin condition and dental decay.

Meghan: So their need is specialty soap and denture cream and denture glue. And so their needs are entirely different. So if you’re just collecting supplies and then putting them out into the universe, it’s a very kind thing to do. But it would be like saying I’m handing out food but not thinking about someone with diabetes, somebody, you know, who has allergies. So we really believe that it’s important if we’re actually going to say that we are achieving our goal of improved health and wellness, that we look at somebody’s individual needs and respond to that. For that reason, our services, we do see a really tremendous impact. They take a lot of work. It would be so much easier to just collect items and put them out.

Meghan: But, you know, we we’re really proud that we do see, statistically, improvements in physical health. We know that we’ve reduced the emergency room visits due to infections in the Bay Area, which is really tremendous. And we know that our recipients are actually having greater access to hygiene that wouldn’t because they have products they can actually use.

Dennis: Can you still remember how your first project went and then along the journey where you are now? And also how the metrics that you’re checking, how they improve of the health and well well-being of your recipients.

Meghan: Yeah. Absolutely. I would say, you know, when we first And I think health improvements take time, you know, especially when it’s skin condition dental conditions. It takes time. So in the beginning, we were really talking to a lot of public health experts, talking to medical experts, and hoping that what we were doing was going to work. And it took a few years before we could actually look at the numbers and see the improvement. I would say that some of the big changes and transitions we made to today is in our goal of making hygiene more equitable. So it’s not just about access, but it’s about being equitable.

Meghan: And in that way, we had to really bring in some people with lived experiences. We had to diversify our team and and really be able to say, okay. What are different products that are needed and used in different cultures with different races, with different religions and demographics? Really had no way of getting services. We were looking at communities that where many people lived in poverty, and they had no nonprofits in the area. So what we started doing in those areas to overcome that was instead of partnering with services, we started partnering with post offices and libraries because those are, you know, those are still in a lot of those communities. And we said, hey. Can we just supply you with these supplies so if someone comes in in need, they can access them? And so I think that was another really big transition where we said, hey. We can’t just say we want hygiene accessible and equitable.

Meghan: We actually have to change the way we do our services depending upon who’s receiving them and where they’re located.

Dennis: So you already mentioned that you started in the San Francisco area. You expanded to the rural areas. Well, you know, give us an an overview of where you’re operating.

Meghan: So we are in we have had services in over 200 cities across 4 countries. Many of them are ongoing. We continue to support them. We continue to provide them with products. Some of them were in response to disasters. So we have, you know, we have responded in in natural disasters where we provide, you know, everyone had to leave their homes very quickly. And you’re thinking about your passport, and you’re thinking about, you know, something with an important memory, and you’re thinking about your family and getting out quickly. You’re not thinking about deodorant.

Meghan: You’re not, you know, you’re not thinking about toothpaste. And so once you often get to a site, a safe space, there’s not really much there. So in a way that we partner across the globe as well is we work with a lot of disaster relief programs like the Red Cross so that when they set up somewhere, like, maybe they set up in a gymnasium, we can get them fully stocked with detergent to clean bedding and towels with toothbrush and toothpaste, infant diapers, menstrual products, all those things that you leave the home without thinking about. So that was a really big global expansion we did as well. And it’s hard in that sense to know where we’ll be next year because we don’t always anticipate where the next disaster will be. We certainly know there will be 1. Yeah. We don’t necessarily, you know, we don’t necessarily know where it’s gonna be that it’s gonna be most important for us to respond to.

Meghan: So that’s been a really big way that we respond. And then we stay there. Because often, what I have seen is when there’s a disaster, you know, the relief comes and the support comes, and then it often leaves. And so where Simply the Basics has actually often stepped in is if there is a natural disaster somewhere, there’s actually a lot of support that goes immediately from the globe. That’s amazing. But then maybe 2 months later, they slowly stop getting supplies. That’s usually when we step in. We say, hey.

Meghan: Now that you’re starting to run low, now that this isn’t a big social media campaign, what are you still in need of? And we provide that ongoing because those families can’t often return home. And so we wanna make sure that we still continue to provide that support wherever they’re at.

Dennis: Yes. Before we’re also going into, like, let’s say, what’s what’s happening in the future for you and what what kind of plans there, really like the the part where you say, like, when you go into one area, that you also stay there. That you don’t just provide, like, the basics and then you leave, but you really ensure that, the basics are covered. You also already mentioned that, well, from expanding from one city to many cities in rural areas, going internationally into what is like 200 cities, 4 countries, partnering with the post offices and other local authorities, partnering with big NGOs. What have been some of the biggest challenges for you along along the way so far?

Meghan: You know, I’m certainly funding. We are privately funded, so that’s I think that’s an answer any organization is gonna say. Funding is difficult. You know, before COVID, we had to really convince people that hygiene was a public health issue. COVID happened, and then suddenly everybody understood that if people can’t wash their hands, many of us could get sick. You know, before that, we really, really had to do a lot of convincing because a lot of saw hygiene as not a necessity. I think that when it comes to food, if I go a couple meals not eating, I feel hunger in my body. So I know that food is necessary.

Meghan: We you know, it’s been drilled into us since childhood, you know, to eat your fruits and vegetables. We know that. But hygiene isn’t really addressed that way. It’s kind of like, well, brush your teeth or you’ll get a cavity and, you know, wash up so you don’t smell bad. But, you know, if I went a day or 2 not bathing, I wouldn’t see or feel necessarily a physical difference other than maybe feeling icky. So it’s harder for people to recognize that if you go weeks without proper soap, those skin conditions are life threatening. They you know, if you go once not brushing your teeth, the dental care turns into heart disease. And so I think it’s harder for people to recognize that this is bigger than just feeling good and smelling good, that this is a a health crisis.

Meghan: And so I would say one of our biggest challenges for a long time was really getting people to understand that, that this isn’t, you know, just a nice thing to do, that this is a health concern. And, you know, in that light, certainly, just donations are always hard to come by. Then after the pandemic, it became that the need just became tremendous. Suddenly, people were out of work that, you know, did not have funds stored up to deal with the months they would be out of work and the struggle finding jobs. And suddenly, people were not able to go to the social service sites they normally go to because they were closed down. Even the libraries were closed down, so we, you know, struggled to get supplies there. So that was that was certainly a challenge just that the need has increased, and it hasn’t stopped increasing because of the economy right now. It’s we have a wait list of sites right now looking to become receiving sites.

Meghan: I mentioned this earlier. What we do so uniquely that I think is so important is we stay. You know, we don’t say, okay. To a shelter, here’s your onetime donation of hygiene supplies. We don’t even call it a donation. Mhmm. We have a partnership. So we believe that these sites we work with are our partner to connect to people in need.

Meghan: So we need to make sure that we have enough funds and supplies, not just to give one time, but to give every quarter and to give exactly what people need. So, yeah, I think that the 2 the 2 biggest challenges you face, just to answer the question short, is, you know, awareness of the issue and then having the funds and resources to respond to the issue.

Dennis: Sounds like an an evolution of the challenges that you had along the way. Starting with, like, how can you partner with different organizations getting out of San Francisco and finding, okay, there’s some some post office, some other local authorities, communities that you can partner with. And now you have a waitlist of different locations where you could potentially go into. And then the communication issue, the communication challenge where initially people might have thought, oh, it’s just about smelling a little bit better. Just to paraphrase it with different words. And now with the COVID crisis, people really see like, oh, wow, that’s a basic necessity. And so it seems like some of the challenges have changed along the way. But still, the big thing that probably all NGOs or most of the NGOs are facing is like, okay, how can we scale up? How can we help even more people? How can we get more donors onboard and more public awareness as well? Before we go into the opportunity for our viewers to see how they can help and support you as well, give us a brief overview.

Dennis: If you imagine simply the basics going forward into the future, what are your plans that that go beyond covering the next disasters?

Meghan: Absolutely. So we just launched in 2023 a new program 2 new programs, but one that I’m I’m just so proud of. It’s called the Hygiene Bank Association. And, you know, I mentioned that I have found that there’s over the years, there’s a lot of really wonderful hygiene distribution sites, but we’re not really talking to each other, and we’re not really sharing data, which is different from food sites, which are all members of programs like Feeding America. You know, they’re all part of food bank system. So we created this platform which has couple of goals. One of them is quality control expectations. There’s there’s never been any standard for quality control when it comes to distributing hygiene.

Meghan: You can just hand out used products, open products, expired products. So we set the very first quality control standards. We said to become a member and have this badge that says you’re a member of Simply the Basics Hygiene Bank Association, you do have to meet some minimum quality standards. The next goal is helping all of these service sites do their work better and stronger. You know, we have tools and trainings on how to raise funds. We have expert speakers on public health come and talk about hygiene. We have library of resources that we add to every week on understanding how to run and operate a nonprofit. And then the last goal is just more hygiene access.

Meghan: There’s discounts to hygiene products. There’s grants available to apply for hygiene. And so I’m really, really excited. We are you know, we have a few dozen members already. We get more apply every week. And the idea is that all these organizations and nonprofits that distribute hygiene in different ways. Sometimes it’s a community group. Sometimes it’s a robust program that we can be talking and working together and learning from each other.

Meghan: Because I really believe that it’s only in working as partners that we’re gonna be able to achieve these goals. My long term excitement for this is I I love data. I love collecting data. I feel like if we’re just doing the work and we don’t actually track to know that we did it well, how do we do better? How do we know we how do we know we achieved our mission? So I you know, I’m really, really excited that all these organizations will be able to share our data. And my hope is that we can use this data, use this understanding of the impact of hygiene to advocate for changes in public policy. If we can use this to prove to the government, to the world, the impact of having access to hygiene, then maybe we can get hygiene products added to those benefit programs. And maybe we don’t even need our services anymore. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, you know, to be able to say, hey.

Meghan: You have access to hygiene now. So long term, I really I really hope to see that all of us working together, sharing this data. We can do the work better, and we can get others to support and participate in the work as well.

Dennis: Beautiful. So maybe in a similar sense how food, the basic needs are covered in most places. Shelter is covered in a lot of cities, maybe San Francisco, not so much, but I know there’s a little bit more, but also hygiene might be covered much more at the basic needs.

Meghan: Certainly, in the states, we can learn a lot from Switzerland and and other countries about providing benefits, providing social services. You know, I I do believe it should not rely so much on our small nonprofits to do that we need more support from our government, from our country. And so I really do hope that long term, they can see the impact of this work, not just for the individuals we serve, but, you know, in San Francisco, I can point to a number and say, we saved the city money because you didn’t have as many uninsured people going to the emergency room. That data is powerful. So I yeah. I’m really excited for that long term. And it’s also just wonderful to know that all these hygiene services that become members have opportunities to grow their programs as well.

Dennis: It’s beautiful. It’s good that you see, like, a really direct need and stepping in there. But then also at the same time, with the aim to kind of make yourself unnecessary in that sense that the government is taking care of it. And that what is an issue right now might become an issue in the future, hopefully. Now before we go into your personal learnings as well, give us an overview. What would be the best way for us to to support you along the journey?

Meghan: There’s 2 ways, and you can learn about both if you visit our website, simply the basics dot org. One of them is, of course, making a donation. We have what we call hygiene market, and you can make a donation for specific products. So you can provide in disaster relief in your area. You can provide textured hair shampoo. You can provide you know, you can select we first aid products. So those donations really do go a long way. Or we have a really, really cool program on our website called the HiG Locator.

Meghan: You don’t have to donate to us. Let’s say you wanna support something right in your neighborhood. You can search by your ZIP code. You can search by services. Like, let’s say I wanted to donate diapers to a shelter that serves families in my neighborhood in Chicago. I can search my ZIP code, put in diapers, and see all the organizations in Chicago that are in need of diapers. And I really love this because what I found when I worked at a shelter in Chicago is that Chicago just being an example. It always comes to my mind because I love to bring up Chicago. I find that people want to donate, but they often just drop everything off, not necessarily it being what a nonprofit needs. And they don’t realize that they just gave the nonprofit, like, a chore. Now this nonprofit has to redone it somewhere. They have to go through it. So this is hopefully gonna reduce a lot of waste by just double checking. Hey. Who actually needs these items? It’s also a way that people in need can find services in their area.

Meghan: So I would say those are the donate options. You could donate directly to Simply the Basics. We’ll make sure the supplies get to people in need, or you can search the locator in your area. I would say the second thing that, you know, is just a tremendous support I mentioned earlier, our challenge with outreach, with marketing, with getting people to understand the issue. Just follow us on social media. Share some of our posts. Tell your friend about, you know, this organization you heard about. Talk about hygiene and equity.

Meghan: You know, just having that conversation, sharing, making it a bigger a bigger platform can be a tremendous help, especially because then you never know who’s in need. And if you share this, you might have somebody in your own community that was struggling a little bit to make ends meet, and now they have access to find out where they can get support.

Dennis: Beautiful. I especially love that you’re also putting other charities on top there and helping people make a local difference and connecting them with, like, charities that actually need what they are supporting them.

Meghan: Absolutely. I love reducing waste and saving us all time.

Dennis: Yeah. Now let’s take a little turn and go into some personal reflections as well. Probably since, like, after the studies of Shakespeare, going into the homeless shelters in Chicago, working in suicide prevention in California, and now working with Simply the Basics. How would you say has all that work impacted your personal life?

Meghan: I’m not sure if I’m fortunate or I am intentional, but I am surrounded by some really incredible people in my life. My social circle is, you know, is made up of people who are in very different fields. They’re they’re very dedicated. They’re very passionate. They’re very intelligent. I mentioned how when I very first began, you know, I would invite friends over for brunch and then put them to work, and it was a little bit of a bait and switch. But it’s because of the people around me, I knew that not only would they do that, so many of them joined our my advisory committee, our donors. You know, they listened to this, Lydia, Michelle, Jillian, Michael, Bob, all you know, these people really built this foundation, Priya, from the beginning and made it possible.

Meghan: I don’t think you can do this alone. I think that if you want to set out to achieve something long term, there are some wonderful people with really wonderful intentions. And then they asked me later. They’re like, you know, I tried to start a nonprofit, and it didn’t work. And why didn’t it work? And I think the commonality often see is they didn’t bring people into the fold to do it with them. And then the other side is they didn’t partner with the community already doing the work. And so, you know, I I think that those pieces have made it so I’ve been able to do this work. It also can be hard work, you know, are wonderful, and I’ve also worked in homelessness.

Meghan: And we can turn to each other and say, hey. Let’s let’s unpack what happened today and why that was hard and and talk through that, I think, makes a big difference. And, you know, I think that the type of work that we do is 247 because even if you’re technically off the clock, you’re thinking about it, you’re getting emails, or you’re seeing someone in need as you’re walking around. And so one of the things we include in our Hygiene Bank Association is tools for preventing burnout and tools for your own mental health, and I think that that’s really important for me. I give pretty much the entirety of the credit to my dog and my my people around me that made it possible.

Dennis: Nice. Now

Meghan: So maybe get a dog with the other side.

Dennis: Just get a dog. Plus a great support group. Yeah. It sounds like you found your right kind of bubble of people who are really help making a positive impact as well there.

Meghan: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. And they all work in very, very different fields, but that has made a really big difference too. I can, you know, I can lean on them to to say, you know, hey. Can I pick your technological brain? Can I pick your financial brain? And that makes a big difference too because I’m not an expert in, you know, nearly anything, but certainly not everything. So I found the experts.

Dennis: And I think the the beautiful part is about, like, aligning with people who are all just driven by making a positive impact. It’s just so easy to reach out. It’s so easy to to communicate together because we’re all aligned with the same, let’s say, overarching mission. And overarching mission that we want to make a positive impact. So it really feels like with everyone I’m speaking, it’s like, let’s help each other. How can we support each other? What kind of information can we share? Because in the end, we all kind of wanna have the same thing. Absolutely. Nice.

Dennis: Yeah. Now let’s go into the final question already. If you had to share one That’s right. With us, how we could become more impactful, what would your number one tip be?

Meghan: Listen to the people that you serve, I think, would be my advice to to people who to people you know, assuming many people listening to this, you know, run their own organizations, work in organizations. Just listen to people with lived experiences. They always know better. I know that exactly the way we’re doing programs today is because we listened and we learned from people who’ve been in need, and we made changes. And I know that a year from now, we’re gonna learn more, and we’re gonna make more changes. And I I think that at the end of the day, that’s what this is about. It’s not about our pride. It’s not about what makes the job easiest.

Meghan: It’s about making sure that the time we’re spending, the money that we’re donating, the work that we’re doing is with those we’re serving in mind. So I, you know, I think do the the hard work and listen to them is the best way to frame your programs so that lives are truly changed rather than just you’re doing something that, you know, feels good but hasn’t made that change. That would be my advice to service providers. Listen, talk, ask questions. It makes a really, really big difference.

Dennis: Beautiful.

Meghan: And then get a dog.

Dennis: Of course. Thanks Thanks so much for sharing that all with us, Meghan. Thanks so much for joining us and for the work you’re doing with Simply the Basics.

Meghan: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Nance. This was really great. I was really excited to join.

Dennis: My pleasure. And to everyone else, thanks so much for joining us as well. And stay impactful.

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