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Way to Go! Oceanside student collects, donates toiletries

Laila Esposito, a first-grader at Florence A. Smith

Laila Esposito, a first-grader at Florence A. Smith Elementary School 2, recently collected more than 100 bags worth of toiletries to the Salvation Army and the Mary Brennan INN in Hempstead. Credit: Erin Esposito

An Oceanside elementary schooler has collected hundreds of toiletries for families in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laila Esposito, a first-grader at Florence A. Smith Elementary School 2, has collected about 800 items — including deodorant, mouthwash and toothbrushes — since the fall for the Salvation Army and the Mary Brennan INN in Hempstead. The toiletries were packaged into bags, with 70 going to the Salvation Army and 80 to the Mary Brennan INN.

Laila, 6, also raised about $1,500 that she used to purchase additional toiletries and asked Santa Claus to bring her toiletries to donate for Christmas, according to her mother, Erin.

"One day she just approached me and said, 'I want to give toiletries to homeless people,'" Erin said of her daughter. "It's nice for someone so young to even think of other people."

The Esposito family said they spread the word about Laila's efforts on social media, with friends and family donating the toiletries by mail or dropping them off.

"I love organizing the toiletries with my friends and giving it to the homeless," Laila said. "I want people to have things they need. I want to keep doing this for a long time."

Laila also plays the piano and participates in dance and gymnastics outside of school.

— MICHAEL R. EBERT

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