Donating toiletries: A slam dunk

Donating toiletries: A slam dunk

Local NBA scout mobilizes teams and players into collecting unused hotel supplies

Daniel Marks, in front, with local basketball coaches and Newark city employees as they distribute toiletries.
Daniel Marks, in front, with local basketball coaches and Newark city employees as they distribute toiletries.

Hotels throw away bottles of shampoo, wrapped soaps, and other toiletries that guests don’t use. An NBA scout in New Jersey has found a way to give back by mobilizing the sports community to scavenge these unused washing supplies.

More than 2,500 pounds of toiletries have been collected and distributed to people in need in the past two and a half years, according to Daniel Marks of Basking Ridge, founder of Scouts and Scavengers. As word gets out, more scouts and players across the country are scooping up the toiletries and giving them to social service organizations rather than consigning them to a dump.

The partnership began with the city of Newark as part of a covid relief program. “It’s really cool to see the growth of it,” Mr. Marks, 31, said. He is on the road about 100 days each year as a scout for the Milwaukee Bucks, and he’s just finished his ninth season for the team. That means that there have been a lot of free toiletries for him to snag.

“It really helps to eliminate the waste of these supplies,” Mr. Marks said. “These hygiene products were in such demand during covid-19. Then, just being able to see how grateful people are to receive these supplies that we often take for granted. It’s been really, really gratifying.”

Dawn Y. Haynes, cofounder of Brick City Peace Collective in Newark, joined forces with Scouts and Scavengers during its food distribution. “It only made sense,” Ms. Haynes said. “Not only were we offering food, but we were offering toiletries as well. So it was quite the combination. It was so useful to our community and appreciated. It still is.”

From left, Allie Palmieri and Jala Jordan of Seton Hall’s women’s basketball team work with Scouts and Scavengers in Newark.

Mr. Marks always has felt a connection to Newark, where his immigrant Jewish grandparents grew up. “So to be able to give back and be involved in the city, where so much of my family history took place, has really been cool,” he said.

On June 29, 500 bags of supplies were distributed through a food relief program in Newark. Other toiletries went to organizations helping the homeless. “We feel the impact of serving, of being able to supply what people need,” Mr. Marks said.

As word spreads about a way to contribute, teams are delivering supplies to their own communities. “Players, coaches, support staff, everyone collects and delivers to whoever is handling travel and logistics,” he continued. “We leave it up to the teams to determine what organizations align with their values. We want teams to feel comfortable with the places that they are donating to.”

Participating organizations range from the NBA and the NBA G League — its minor league — to men’s and women’s college basketball teams. Mr. Marks estimates that more than 120 teams have joined the effort to collect hotel toiletries.

Mr. Marks said he got the idea for Scouts and Scavengers from a December 2019 tweet by a sports journalist about donating hotel toiletries. Then he checked into a Las Vegas hotel room, and what had been an intellectual idea took physical form. “You get so many extras — shampoos, soaps and slippers,” Mr. Marks said. “I travel so much. I thought I should start doing this myself and encourage my coworkers with the Bucks to get involved.”

So do NJIT men’s basketball coaches Danny Manuel, left, and Brian Kennedy.

But his job is competitive and 24/7, so he had to find some way to serve that could fit into his schedule and obligations. “Some of my most rewarding experiences in life have been from volunteer activities like helping out at a shelter for homeless children.”

Volunteers kept the scavenging alive through covid, even though people weren’t traveling as much, Mr. Marks explained.

Scott Scherer, 24, of Manalapan is the director of basketball administration for Rutgers University’s men’s basketball team. He became a scavenger at Marks’ urging. “It has no effect on us, because we’re not using the supplies,” he said. “Our head coach said this is something we need to do. So we did it and we’ve been doing this since.”

“I just think it’s awesome that we can help people who are less fortunate,” Mr. Scherer said. “It’s just the small things that we take for granted. People go through things that they can’t control, and they need help. We can help them.”

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