- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) - A tattoo artist by trade, Summer Hamrick says she enjoys working with her hands and is constantly looking for new projects and hobbies.

When she stumbled across soap making videos on YouTube, she says, at first, she thought it seemed intimidating.

But eventually, the 28-year-old wife and mother decided to give it a try.

“I’ve been in love with it ever since and have even branched out into making lotions, scrubs and balms,” said Hamrick.

Hamrick recently decided to use her craft as a mission project of sorts. She launched Soap for Hope, an effort to provide hygiene kits to Kingsport’s Shades of Grace United Methodist Church. Since its opening on East Sullivan Street in October 2014, Shades of Grace has become well-known for its charitable work with the homeless and impoverished in Kingsport.

“The idea for the hygiene drive was actually inspired by my brother, Justin, and his wife, Olivia,” said Hamrick. “They attend and volunteer at Shades of Grace and I think the church’s work with the homeless has really had an effect on (Justin and Olivia). My brother has been dealt some tough hands in his life, but God called them there and they’re serving obediently. They told me a lot about the church and that there’s even an area for the homeless to shower and freshen up. After that, it just clicked. I constantly have soap around the house. Why not put it to good use?”

Hamrick says her goals for this drive are many.

“The first, of course, is to get these basic hygiene supplies to the people that need them. My husband and I also serve at a local nonprofit called Friends of the Gospel. It’s an international, missions-focused organization, and it has given us such a clear perspective on basic human needs,” she said.

“Around the world, people just want food, water and basic sanitation. The inability to clean a wound can kill. America is a great nation, and a person living here shouldn’t have to lose a foot because of poor hygiene. I’m not talking about a government solution, but individuals standing up and living out Matthew 25:40.” (“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”)

Hamrick said she also wants this drive to be a way to give the people of Kingsport an easy way to start making a difference in their community.

The cost to sponsor a Soap for Hope kit is $5, which will go toward the purchase of a bar of soap, a four-ounce bottle of shampoo, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush and a packet of antibiotic ointment.

“We’re aiming to purchase our soap and shampoo supplies and other items in bulk at wholesale prices,” Hamrick said. “However, if anyone would like to physically donate some of these items, we’ll be delighted to use those as well.”

Hamrick hopes to have enough items purchased to deliver 40 to 50 hygiene kits to Shades of Grace by mid-February.

“Basically, what I hope people can take from this is that anyone can do this, and I don’t mean just donate,” she said. “I don’t have a college degree; there’s nothing that says I can do more for someone than anyone else. There are great things happening in the Tri-Cities that so many people don’t even know about. Kingsport is touching the lives of people, literally, all over the world. Get out there, find a church that is on fire for serving people and be the real hope and change.”

For more information on Soap for Hope, including how you can make a donation, visit www.squareup.com/store/vestigemarket.

Monetary donations, as well as donations of hygiene items, can also be dropped off at Hamrick’s office at Ink Revolution Studios, located at 2309 Fort Henry Drive.

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Information from: Kingsport Times-News, https://www.timesnews.net

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