How You Can Make a Difference One Bag at a Time

Last week, I wrote about my encounter with the homeless man that I see almost every day on the way to my office.  (If you missed it, you can read about that here.)  In that post, I mentioned that we have put together “homeless sacks” to keep in our cars so that when we encounter homeless people along the way, we’ll have something meaningful to give them.  Since that post, I’ve had several people ask me what we put in the homeless sacks, so I thought I’d put together a short post to tell you.  

As I mentioned in my previous post, keeping homeless sacks in our cars is an old habit that we got out of when we moved away from the city.  But years ago, this was the primary mission of the young couples class that we were involved in at the church we served.  I remember sitting in one of our meetings together talking about the kinds of things that would make up the contents of a good homeless sack.  These are the things we were looking for:

Canned or boxed foods that have a good shelf life.

Food products that include protein.

Items that do not require a can opener or other utensils.

And items to help with personal hygiene.      

Using these criteria again 13 years later, we came up with the following items, which we packaged in two-gallon resealable plastic bags.  (Incidentally, did you know that bags are highly valued items by the homeless population?  If you think about it, that makes sense. With this in mind, we contemplated using reusable grocery sacks but decided that the “water proof” aspect of a resealable plastic bag was a better choice for this project.  Sorry Mother Earth.  We’re trying to take better care of you in other ways around our house.  I promise.):

1 Bottled Water

1 Chunk Light Tuna in Water (Lunch Kit)

1 Tube Crackers

2 Natural Creamy Peanut Butter To Go Cartons

1 Package Cashews, Almonds, or Peanuts

1 Toothbrush

1 Travel Sized Toothpaste

1 Travel Sized Package of Wet Wipes

And a Handwritten Note.

In the morning, we usually grab a fresh piece of fruit to throw in the bag as well.  If we don’t give the bag away while we’re out, we remove the fruit so it doesn’t spoil the bag.

This is a really simple gesture.  

It’s certainly nothing to boast about.  

But it’s practical.  

And it meets some immediate needs.  

It’s also empowering to those of us who pass them out, and it provides a reason for us to connect with the homeless community we encounter along the way.  It cost us one trip to the grocery store and $110 to make 16 bags.  That’s less than $7 per bag.  And it took all of thirty minutes to stuff them.  (After the supplies sat in my utility room for way too long.  Don’t judge.)

If this resonates with you, would you consider doing four things:

1.  Would you share this post with those in your sphere of influence so that others might consider making homeless sacks to pass out in their small corner of the world?

2.  If homeless sacks make sense in your context, would you prayerfully consider taking this project on with your own family, church, Sunday school class, business, or other group in which you have influence?

3.  If your answer to No. 2 is “yes,” would you consider posting a comment, Tweeting us, or visiting our Facebook page (see the “Follow” and “Like” buttons on the right side of this page) and telling us about your experience?

4.  If you have your own spin on homeless sacks or if you have other ideas of things we could include in our sacks in the future, would you let us know by posting a comment so we can benefit from your creativity?  

Thanks friends!

“‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” 

‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭35-40‬

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8 thoughts on “How You Can Make a Difference One Bag at a Time

  1. I have forwarded this to my UMW circle as we support some mission almost every month. Also wonder how best to serve the homeless instead of waiting to see one. Samaritan Inn turns away homeless for lack of space – might these be good for them to have to hand out to them?

  2. Winona, what a great idea! I agree with you that we need to seek opportunities to alleviate the needs of the homeless in addition to taking a proactive approach to how we will respond when we encounter them during the course of a day. I have no idea whether Samaritan Inn gives anything to homeless people when they have to turn them away, but I bet we could find out! If you find out before I do, will you let me know?

  3. I have checked with Jill Rix, volunteer coordinator at Samaritan Inn. They do not have space to handle bags for homeless but refer those they have to turn away to agencies who provide food, etc. I doubt that most homeless solicit food pantries or that might be a good place to provide bags to distribute.

  4. Jennifer I go to Austin Street Mission about once a month to deliver such as you have mentioned for new Homeless coming in or old leaving and also take any donations of clothes, etc and the bed matts Barbara Stark and her group make every Monday at the church + bags of toiletries they collect. If you have any bags left over I’ll be glad to take with me. Also combs are a huge delight for Homeless …
    Thank you for thinking of these forgotten people,
    Lyn Kingsbury

  5. We have done this & find that band aids, antibiotic ointment (like neosporin), & gum are good to add to the bag. Thank you for sharing your heart for the homeless!

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