Most kids and teenagers throw a party and receive gifts for their birthday, but not Kate McCrackin and Carlee Payne. They hold an annual Birthday Toilet Paper Drive and collect toilet paper for EVE’s House in Lansing, Mich.
EVE’s House is a shelter that provides support to survivors of domestic violence.
They begin collecting on Jan. 10, their birthday, and they have been for the past six years. The ninth graders kindly ask people to “spare a square” to the cause that means most to them.
It hasn’t always been toilet paper, though. They began with non-perishable foods, and then coats, hats and mittens.
“When we delivered the coats, hats and mittens we just asked them, ‘What’s the biggest item that you need that costs the most and people value the most?’ She told us toilet paper,” Kate McCrackin said, laughing. “Who would have thought?”
The girls donated 1,200 rolls their first year of collecting, and it has increased ever since.
“Five thousand rolls gets them [EVE’s House] a year’s supply. One time their goal was 5,000 and they ended up getting a little over 7,000. So, they gave EVE’s House 5,000 rolls and then donated the rest to Haven House in East Lansing,” Andrea Payne, Carlee’s mom, said.
“It saves EVE’s House about $6,000 a year,” Janis McCrackin, Kate’s mom, said.
The girls said that the past two years they’ve had to rent a U-Haul to get all of the toilet paper to EVE’s House. Before then, they were making four or five car trips. Before delivery, the toilet paper stays stacked in piles in the McCrackin family garage.
Both Carlee Payne and Kate McCrackin said how thankful they are to their community and friends for helping out with something that is so important to them.
“Most of our friends are usually involved in it. There’s a lot of girls in our grade that have been really close friends since the time we’ve started this so they’ve always donated and been a part of it,” Carlee Payne said.
“A lot of times we have four or five carts lined up getting ready to check out and everybody’s giving us weird looks and they ask us why we’re buying so much toilet paper,” Kate McCrackin said, laughing. “Then, we tell them our story and people will buy it for us there. They’ll say, ‘Hey, here’s $20 go get another case.”
Kate McCrackin and Carlee Payne send letters to different businesses annually to ask for donations. Meijer has been a loyal supporter the past four years, donating a $500 gift card as long as they purchase the toilet paper from them.
Both moms said how proud they were of their daughters for not only being active in this cause, but sticking with it over the years as well.
“When we started in second or third grade we would just ask people for toilet paper and that was that. In fifth or sixth grade we realized we were doing something good for people,” Kate McCrackin said.
The girls are still in the process of collecting this year, and hope to reach 10,000 rolls.
“It’s a tradition,” Carlee Payne said. “We have to do it.”