Well friends, it’s time for a new challenge! This is one of my very favorite ways to teach my children to serve. It’s time to make blessing bags!
You might have seen or heard of these before. It’s a pretty simple idea: Take a Ziploc bag. Fill it with small toiletries. Give it to someone in need.
The first time I made blessing bags, I intended on keeping one in my car at all times and giving them to any homeless people I might see. I have done that, and it has led to some very special experiences. But I found that often when I saw people in need of help, I didn’t feel like I could safely get to them and give them a bag. I was left with a stack in my closet that weren’t getting used very fast. So here are a few different suggestions of ways you can bless others with these bags:
- As mentioned, we’ve kept them in the car to hand out to homeless people that we might see asking for money.
- We’ve donated them to a local shelter for homeless men. This program works to help men in our community get sober, get clean, and get working. I love what they do, and I love donating to them. I knew that they would make sure they got to people who truly needed help.
- We’ve donated to our local women’s shelter. When most women arrive, they have almost no possessions. To have a bag of toiletries handed to you – it might make the day just a tiny bit more bearable.
- We’ve taken bags to a local outreach program for homeless teenagers. They go out and work with kids on the street, and they love having these bags to hand out to the kids.
- Most recently, we donated them to the hospital. Almost any ward would probably take them, but we brought ours to the area where the new moms recover from childbirth. Some women go into labor so suddenly, they don’t have time to pack a bag. Having the opportunity to clean up a little can make a huge difference!
So what goes in a blessing bag? Well, think of your audience. Whenever I make them, I like to include soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. If it’s going to a woman, I like to add lotion or a sanitizer. Sometimes I’ll add a razor if it’s going to a man. A pair of socks, chapstick, hair bands, fingernail clippers … use your imagination! I also like to include a few quarters in the bags that I keep in my car – enough to give someone the dignity of going to a store or a vending machine and being able to choose a snack. (Y’all know how much I love quarters!)
If you have a few extra moments, you might want to put an encouraging note inside. This is a great activity for kids to help with!
(I love 6-year-old handwriting, don’t you?)
Would you like to donate them to an organization but don’t know where to go? Try google-ing “shelter” and your zip code. Shelters for families, women’s shelters, shelters for teenagers … I was amazed to see how much need there was in a 20 mile radius from my home! You can also bring them to your local hospital. If you’d like, you can call ahead and ask to speak to a volunteer coordinator – he or she will likely be very happy to tell you where your donation would be most needed.
If you’d like to assemble a few blessing bags but you’re on a tight budget, here are a few tips:
- Ask your friends for donations. Many people, particularly those who travel frequently, have a stash of sample-sized items that they might be willing to share.
- Check out clearance racks. I was at Walgreens this week and found tons of travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles marked down to 24 cents each. I’ve also found travel-sized toothpaste marked down to 75% off at CVS. When Bath and Body works has its semi-annual sale, I bring a coupon and hit up the clearance bins.
- Reach out to local businesses. Ask your dentist for some sample-sized toothpaste. Contact a local hotel and see if they’d be willing to sell you some travel-sized toiletries at cost. Most people would love to help with projects like this – by asking others for support, you’re giving them the opportunity to serve with you.
- Host a Blessing Bag Packing Party. I did this once, and it was so fun! Everyone brought whatever small toiletry items they had at home. I went to Target and used a Shopkick-earned gift card to buy a bunch of travel toothbrushes. (Remember, unless you’re planning on using a gallon-sized Ziploc, you need to get a toothbrush that folds in half. They’re usually around $1 in the travel sections of most stores, or you can find them at most dollar stores.) We were able to make enough for each of us to keep in our car, and we had a bunch left over to donate to a local shelter.
So that’s it! There are a lot of tips here, but it’s a pretty simple challenge. Who’s in??