Columbia Star

WSUMC youth member dedicates a Little Free Hygiene Pantry for the underserved in the Soup Cellar

Lydia Conte shows the contents of the Little Free Hygiene Pantry.

Lydia Conte shows the contents of the Little Free Hygiene Pantry.

Thanks to recent high school graduate Lydia Conte, Washington Street United Methodist Church (WSUMC) has opened a Little Free Hygiene Pantry in its Soup Cellar. Conte’s idea was to create a pantry of hygiene products most of us take for granted and make them available on a day-to-day basis for those less fortunate. For those partaking of the meals served in the Soup Cellar at Washington Street, Lydia’s Little Free Hygiene Pantry is now open.

Along with Rev. Becky Shirley and others at the church, Conte was brainstorming ideas for her Girl Scout Gold Award project. As she looked back on the many service projects she had enjoyed in the past, she realized some of her favorite experiences had been helping in the Soup Cellar at Washington Street.

“When I was a young girl, I always loved being in the Mary’s Maiden Circle. Filling up bags full of hygiene products for clients of the soup cellar around the holidays was always one of my favorite activities,” said Conte. “I knew I wanted to do something to honor the impact that had on me under the leadership of Mary Lide and Kathy Wright. They taught me how to experience the joy of caring for others.”

The Little Free Hygiene Pantry

The Little Free Hygiene Pantry

Her idea was straightforward: To provide hygiene products year-round for those in need. The soup cellar was a perfect outlet to reach this community, so the idea of the Little Free Hygiene Pantry was born. A cabinet purchased at a thrift store was refurbished and stocked with 10 different kinds of travel-size hygiene products. Now, diners can browse and take what they need on the way out of the Soup Cellar.

Personal hygiene is so important, not only for physical health but for good mental health. When personal hygiene declines, it can easily lead to self-esteem issues, which are just as dangerous and damaging for adults as for teenagers.

The Soup Cellar at Washington Street has been feeding the underserved for more than 40 years. Meals are served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to anyone in need. Each year, the WSUMC Soup Cellar serves more than 4,000 meals. Volunteers from various local churches help prepare and serve meals each week. For more information about the Soup Cellar, please contact Robbie Douglas at

Donations to the Little Free Hygiene Pantry can be made online at or by visiting the Little Free Hygiene Pantry’s Wish List on AmazonSmile at smile.

Washington Street was established in 1803 and was the first Christian house of worship in Columbia. In January of 2016, WSUMC updated its identity statement to reflect the vision of the church and its congregation: “The congregation of WSUMC praises and serves God from the heart of the city in ways which reach our neighbors near and far. We welcome all who seek the love and mercy of Christ regardless of race, creed, age, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic status. We honor traditions as rooted in our history, our expression of worship, and our respect for theological curiosity. We nonetheless see vital change and ongoing renewal as essential for spiritual growth.”

Washington Street welcomes everyone to worship at 11 a.m., Sundays in its historic sanctuary or via live stream on Youtube each week. Sunday school is offered to all ages, and the nursery is open for newborns to age three.

To find out more about WSUMC, its missions, classes, and social interest teams please visit or visit 1401 Washington Street.

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