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Giving the Basics: Encouraging Hope and Dignity

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What started with a phone call from one friend to another, asking for help to buy toilet paper, quickly blossomed into an amazing Kansas City-based charity, Giving the Basics, which helps over 200,000 people have monthly access to the basic hygiene products they need to be clean, and to have improved health, hope and dignity.  

It was shocking for Teresa Hamilton, Giving the Basics founder, to find out that low-income families on government assistance can get the food they need, but the items they need for better health, hope and dignity, such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and laundry soap, are rejected at the counter. “We discovered that government assistance programs simply do not cover these products, leaving millions of people across the country living in filth and shame, Thankfully, with that knowledge, we can help them get what they need,” Teresa said.  

Joanie Sheeley, Giving the Basics operations director, said that going without the basics has devastating consequences. “Students are bullied because they smell bad and are dirty. Adults cannot get jobs because they are not presentable for job interviews. Young mothers have to rip up clothing to wipe their children. Senior citizens have to resort to washing out their incontinence products and hanging them up to dry, or trying to manage going without them altogether. Young girls miss school because they don’t have the feminine products they need and sadly no one knows the humiliation and shame they feel,” Joanie explained. “As shocking as this may sound, these situations are real and happen every day all over the United States, so the Giving the Basics team stepped in to help.”  

After forming a 501(c)(3), the Giving the Basics board of directors and volunteers set out with a very bold goal of making sure the hygiene products people needed would be accessible on a consistent basis throughout the Kansas City metro area. Giving the Basics started with providing free hygiene products to a handful of local food pantries and quickly added schools and police departments, allowing their team to get the necessary hygiene products into the hands of even more people.  

Currently, the Giving the Basics team, including six full-time and one part-time employees and over 7,000 volunteers a year, supplies much-needed hygiene products to 228 local schools, 3 police departments and 87 registered local pantries. Throughout the month, they gather, package, fill orders and distribute products to local homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, senior centers, veterans’ centers, schools, transitional housing facilities, refugee centers and pantries.

Kelley Scharosch, Giving the Basics CFO, said with pride, “With the help of our generous donors and volunteers, our team is successfully filling a hygiene gap and giving relief to those in need. For that privilege, we are both grateful and proud.”

Giving the Basics, 3150 Mercier Street, Suite 270 D-2, Kansas City, Missouri, 64111, welcomes all donations. Visit to make a financial donation, sign up to volunteer or host a product drive at your work, school or church.