In the modern world, people do not live by food alone.
They need toilet paper, too.
So a group of seventh-grade students at Westminster West Middle School decided to raise toilet paper. Literally.
"Most of the shelters can get food, but there are other important things that are needed," said Katie Kanzler, who is Team 6 "moderator," something like a team senator to the student government.
Katie and her classmates brought rolls from home and raised money with raffles to buy more rolls. Team 6 treasurer Chrissy Seiler suggested they have a contest to see which of the four homerooms could build the highest pyramid of toilet paper.
The intended pyramids turned out to be more like stacks against the wall, Katie said. In teacher Elizabeth "Libby" Baker's seventh-grade portable classroom, the stack reached the ceiling with about 200 rolls.
Last week, students help pack the nearly 500 rolls into a Ford Taurus station wagon, and just barely succeeded, said Kathy Brown, owner of the Taurus and executive director of Shepherd's Staff.
By now, more than half of the toilet paper has been distributed to at least 50 needy families through Shepherd's Staff, an ecumenical charity group of 30 area churches.
"Food stamps pay for food. They don't cover nonfood essentials," Ms. Brown said. "What's more essential in life than toilet paper?"
She tries to keep toilet paper, soap, deodorant, shampoo and other basics in what she calls a "Blessings Closet," actually a small cupboard.
Ms. Brown was delighted when she heard the students were having a toilet paper drive.
"When I went there, there were mountains of it," she said.
She picked up the mountain of tissue and told the students a little more about Shepherd's Staff and the work it does. The association helps needy people fill in the gaps, by referring them to other agencies and by offering some free items from the Blessings Closet, Ms. Brown said.
She said she hopes to see more such drives by students and community groups, to gather such nonfood necessities as toothpaste and deodorant, too.