People’s approach to hotel toiletries vary. Some use it all and ask for more. Others ignore it completely. Christopher Sytek, who was used to traveling a lot for work and always carried his own soap and shampoo, collected and donated them all to Lighthouse’s toiletry drive in Clarkston, Michigan.
In March of this year, due to COVID, Sytek was laid off of work. He was home for two days when he felt the urge to do something, so he signed up as a volunteer for Lighthouse, whose response to the virus was a partnership in the My Covid Response initiative.
Sytek was then assigned to help in MCR’s temporary warehouse located at Oakland University to help load and sort out food deliveries on Fridays.
But it didn’t take him that long before he started doing more.
“I have a big truck, so –” So he started delivering the boxes too. At first, as many as he could fit in his trunk, back seat, or else.
“I think I fit 25 boxes one day,” Sytek said. “The bread and the eggs would go in the back seat, and I had some things on my lap too.”
Having 25 boxes meant 25 individual deliveries all around Pontiac. Something that would eventually take him to “literally all four corners” of the city.
“Volunteering was something I had always done but never actually had the chance to do in bulk.”
Eventually, having to adjust to a fully loaded truck and a congested route of deliveries, Sytek came up with a system. One that made him go from a casual volunteer to one with the highest number of requests fulfilled. He has done four times more deliveries than everyone else, taking care of 880 deliveries and over 100 clients.
Here is how he does it:
Every Monday, Sytek spends one to two hours sorting out the requests he receives from his eight case managers via email or text messages. Requests in MCR’s database are entered by clients through a text box in which they are free to type in all sorts of assistance. Because of COVID, requests have ranged from food and toiletry requests to prayers and virtual tutoring sessions.
Once Sytek acknowledges everyone that he is helping that week, he writes down their names and addresses in pieces of paper separated by the day of delivery. He then carries all the bits and pieces of information in his pocket, and that has included ripped envelopes and any blank space he was able to write on.
“It is like carrying my little pocket Bible,” he said. “It is just like the phone directories we used to carry around with us in the 80s.”
Today, six months after he started, Sytek has a map full of pins and circled routes showing him all the houses served, all the roads taken. He is also now employed so he volunteers after work three days a week, averaging about 20 deliveries and 30 to 35 miles a day.
When asked on how this experience has improved his knowledge of Pontiac and its community, he said:
“Oh, there were many parts of Pontiac I had never even reached before this. And between clients and volunteers… we’re a family. I now recognize people by their cars while I’m driving around.”