The Volunteer
By Elyse Notarianni

Marly Gate’s Facebook page should be a senior-year highlights reel. There should be photos of her mugging with Disney characters during Cherry Hill East’s trip to Florida, and an entire album of her with her boyfriend, showing off her gorgeous ice-blue sequin prom dress.

Instead, the first photo on her Facebook wall is Marly, 18, surrounded by makeup bags filled with shampoos, face creams and other sample-size bottles. The caption is a call for donations to help battered women and children.

When school went virtual, Marly took it hard. “Instead of going to school and all my activities, I was in bed watching videos on my phone,” she says.

Things went from really bad to worse when the class Disney trip was cancelled. But it was the travel-sized toiletries she bought that gave her a new mission. After hearing domestic abuse rates were spiking as women quarantined with abusive partners, Marly wanted a way to give back.

She gathered up her makeup bags and turned to Facebook to ask for more, with the goal of creating 50 bags filled with small toiletries like soaps, hair ties, shampoo/conditioner, tissues and chapstick.

To date, Marly has donated more than 250 bags to organizations including the Camden County Women’s Center, the Cherry Hill Police Department and nonprofits that help women caught up in human-trafficking rings.

Her latest ask is for yet more supplies – in lieu of a graduation present.

“At least,” says Marly, “this makes my senior year a lot more meaningful.”

June 2020
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