PITTSFIELD -- This year, Cindy Shogry-Raimer didn't give anything up for Lent.

Instead, she gave away.

Shogry-Raimer made 25 care packages filled with toiletries and hygiene products. On Saturday, she donated them to Barton's Crossing, a Pittsfield homeless shelter operated by Berkshire Community Action Council Inc.

It flip-flops the more traditional Lent practices, where Christians give up something such as a dessert or luxury, for 40 days beginning on Ash Wednesday.

"It's more in line with my beliefs," said Shogry-Raimer, 46. "I've been doing a lot of soul-searching with faith. The whole pay-it-forward idea resonates with where I am with my life right now."

Items crammed into the 25 care packages include toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, soap, razors and aftershave lotions. Shogry-Raimer bought new items each week during Lent.

"It's going to be more like Christmas than Easter," she said.

Shogry-Raimer bought most of the items at either Walmart or dollar stores, trying to get as many name-brand items as possible to ensure quality. The items in her care packages are geared mostly toward men, since Shogry-Raimer's original idea was to give care packages to soldiers.

"I'm just hoping they enjoy it," she said. "When you're that downtrodden, you don't know where your next meal is coming from, let alone having the money to buy soap."

Barton's Crossing, 1307 North St., has limited funding, Director Janie McCormick said, and can't always readily supply clients with toiletries. Shogry-Raimer's donations will be a temporary fix for that.

"Most people come immediately out of incarceration or another program," said McCormick. "So having a package for them when they come in, it'll make them feel human again."

"It's a whole different spin on the Lenten process," McCormick added. "I thought it was nice."

Shogry-Raimer's decision to donate to Barton's Crossing was influenced by Berkshire United Way, where she volunteers.

"You walk into a drug store to get things and the next thing you know, it's ringing up a lot of dollars," said Berkshire United Way President and CEO Kristine "Kris" Hazzard. "I think people don't think of the homeless shelters. They think more of the traditional nonprofits."

This is the first year Shogry-Raimer is changing her usual Lent traditions, but it's not going to be her last.

"This is going to be my labor of love each year," Shogry-Raimer said. "I'm hoping next year I'll have people join me. I'm one person and I made 25. Imagine if 25 people did this."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
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