After seeing the empty toilet paper aisles and shoppers with loaded carts, Pete’s Toilet Rentals owner Dan Smart knew he had to do something.
Smart has a healthy supply of toilet paper for his portable toilet business in Plaistow and figured he could spare some squares for senior citizens struggling to find some rolls for themselves with so many others storming grocery stores to stock up during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Sunday, he set up shop in the parking lot in the Carriage Towne Plaza in Kingston with approximately 500 rolls of toilet paper loaded into the bed of his pickup truck and a sign offering them free for any seniors.
“I thought I would do them a favor because no one was really helping them out,” said Smart, 46, of Newton.
He showed up unannounced, but it didn’t take long for people to notice.
“I didn’t advertise it at all. I just parked in the parking lot and put up a sign,” he said.
Nearly 40 seniors stopped by to get some free rolls. They thanked Smart for helping them out and some even gave him a donation, which he may give to a local food pantry.
Smart gave away an estimated 200 rolls.
“There were a lot of nice people. They were super thankful people. One guy even stopped and donated a couple cans of Lysol and those went pretty quick,” he said, adding that he also gave away about 10 bottles of hand sanitizer — another essential item that has been nearly impossible to find in stores in recent weeks.
Smart said he usually has plenty of toilet paper for his business, but he’s still trying to be careful. A full pallet of toilet paper arrived just as he was starting to get low last week.
He said he should have enough to get in through the next several weeks, and he hopes by the time he starts running low again the threat from the pandemic will ease up.
While larger events requiring portable toilets have been canceled, including town and school sporting activities, Smart said his business is still busy.
In fact, some warehouses and other businesses have turned to outdoor toilets to keep people from their buildings and potentially spreading the virus.
“We’ve been getting a lot of stuff like that and we still get calls for golf courses because some of those are still opening up and construction is still really good,” he said.
Given the response to his senior toilet paper giveaway, Smart is planning to do it again this weekend.
He said he may return to the Carriage Towne Plaza or visit a different location.
“It was very rewarding and I’m glad I did it,” he said.