Since 1957, Good Neighbors has been providing food to those in need in the community.
But in recent years, its volunteers noticed that people needed toothbrushes and toothpaste, which aren't covered under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
So the organization, which has seven locations in Summit County, began distributing them to the community about three years ago, Good Neighbors volunteer manager George Camilletti said.
"They can't buy it with food stamps," said Camilletti, who said families also say they need toilet paper, soap and laundry detergent, none of which is covered under SNAP. "To me, it's ridiculous."
Each month, the food pantry in Goodyear Heights, which gets about 80 percent of its food from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, provides groceries for about 1,100 families, providing a roughly four-day food supply for recipients once a month. It also provides hygiene items because of the lack of government assistance.
The American Dental Association recommends getting a fresh toothbrush every three or four months and more often if the bristles are frayed. Camilletti said adults and children are given toothbrushes and toothpaste every other month, unless people ask for them more often, giving out about 3,000 brushes a month.
This year, Good Neighbors was awarded $2,000 through the Millennium Fund for the Children's Dental Health Project to provide toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids.
With the $2,000 grant, Camilletti said the group can provide kits to about 1,500 kids in a 15-month period. The group plans to purchase 2,380 units. Because some families receive support from the organization more than three months, with an average length of 3.8 months, some children will receive more than one kit.
The program is one of 31 sharing $43,750 in grants this year from the Millennium Fund for Children. Started in 1999 when the Akron Beacon Journal asked donors to give their last hour of pay in the 20th century, the Akron Community Foundation has amassed $1 million in the fund while handing out $757,000 in small grants to local programs.
The Akron Community Foundation has added a new text-to-give option to donate to the Millennium Fund this year. People can text “Millennium” to 41444, and they will receive prompts to make a donation on their phone.
Camilletti said the grant will hopefully allow children to learn good dental habits early, like brushing twice a day, and help them get fewer cavities.
"Hopefully, when they're young, they get into brushing their teeth," said Camilletti, a Green resident who's been volunteering at the center for six years.
Debi Foss, who's been treasurer-secretary for Good Neighbors for 4½ years, said she also hopes kids develop good dental habits.
"That's something that they can't buy with their SNAP cards, so I'm glad we can help them with that," she said of toothbrushes and toothpaste.
The Goodyear Heights center at 1453 Goodyear Blvd. is open every weekday from noon to 3 p.m. and is staffed almost solely by volunteers. The organization has 75 volunteers in Goodyear Heights and more than 300 across the seven locations.
For other Good Neighbors locations and hours, visit good-neighbors.org.
Clients need a referral from any civic organization, including churches, synagogues, schools or shelters.
Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.