This week, a semi-truck delivered $20,000 worth of free hygiene products to La Casita Center, a Louisville nonprofit that serves the local Latino community. The donation — from Essity, an international hygiene and health products company — is the largest La Casita has ever received.
These gifts are thanks to the work of two Cardinals: Patrick Reeder, a political science student and Jonas Bastien, a recent political science alum.
“I think the story here is that students can make a huge difference,” Reeder said.
Last year, Bastien and Reeder volunteered for La Casita, which serves more than 160 families through advocacy, education and empowerment and basic wellness needs.
They were asked to help make care packages for families, many of which contained items like diapers, paper towels and toilet paper. La Casita Director Karina Barillas explained that many families can’t afford to buy these products and the center passes along donated items. But sometimes, there aren’t enough donations to go around and Barillas must dip into her budget to purchase them, spending as much as $11,000 a year.
“For many of our families, these items are very expensive,” Barillas said. “They are a luxury for us.”
Barillas’ message stuck with the two students, and they carried it with them to a fortuitous encounter with Don Lewis, president of Essity.
Lewis was the keynote speaker at a United Nations conference, which Reeder and Bastien were attending as members of UofL’s United Nations Association, a student organization.
Lewis said that his company, and others like it, depend on the work of advocates like those in the room to connect corporate resources to global needs.
Reeder and Bastien heard his call and acted fast. They approached him and asked if they could talk.
He invited the two to lunch the next day and posed this question to them: ‘What can companies like Essity do for communities like Louisville, Kentucky?’
“I was pretty blunt,” Reeder said. “You could donate supplies, and we could be your liaison.”
They told Lewis all about their experience with La Casita and showed him pictures. Lewis was impressed and set the wheels in motion to make the donation happen.
A semi-truck dropped off the delivery — six pallets worth of donations — July 30. Reeder and Bastien were on hand to help unload it all.
Barillas said the donations will enable the nonprofit to spend its precious resources on other important things, “like nutrition services in our food pantry, soup kitchen and other programming we provide for families.”
Bastien said he’s happy with how it all came together.
“Working on this project, impacting families who need the resources that La Casita Center provides, and seeing this project come to fruition from a humble lunch conversation, gives me great hope for the future of La Casita Center. The intersection between the business sector and non-profit organizations around the community have vast potential for collaboration — I am honored to play a role in helping to close that gap,” he said.
Reeder and Bastien have worked with Essity to plan a celebratory event for La Casita supporters at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 13. Kentucky Representatives Reginald Meeks and Attica Scott and Metro Council President David James plan to attend, along with several UofL professors.
Barillas, who is also a UofL alum, said she couldn’t be more grateful.
“These two young men acted out of a sense of solidarity and kindness and love and compassion to support our needs,” she said. “No one requested this from them, they were driven by their own generosity. It’s beautiful.”