How to Assemble Blessing Bags for Homeless People as a Group

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This post is sponsored by Mormon.org. All opinions expressed are my own.

This year as part of our homeschool, we participate in a local Christian Exploring Co-Op. We take turns planning field trips for our kids. In addition to the field trips we schedule a Moms Night Out, a Teen Night, and a Service Project each quarter too.  Our last service project was a few weeks ago and we collaborated as a homeschool group to make blessing bags for homeless people.

I know many of us (myself included) are never quite sure what to do when confronted with a homeless person. Should we ignore them, look the other way, gesture that we don’t have cash on us (which is often actually true)? Should we just say hi? Or should we give them cash or food or even some work?

Many of us are hesitant to give cash, as we question if this person is actually a con-artist, feigning homeless, or if money is used for alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or other harmful or illegal things?

It’s hard to know for sure!

What I do know is that they are people, many of them in fact down and out, and in need of support and love from another.

I have never been homeless. I don’t really understand their plight. But, I do know the blessing it is to be helped by a stranger (or a friend or family member) when times are tough.

It’s why I love seeing various things innovators, policy makers, and Good Sanitarians do to improve the lives of homeless people, from giving the homeless actual homes, to providing the homeless with work, to creating sleeping bag coats, to giving them haircuts:

I’m all for practical gifts, which is why I love the idea of a blessing bag!  It is giving them simple, everyday products to help them better live out on the streets, to be cleaner, drier, healthier, and fed.

I have seen and heard about this idea for quite some time, but never put together a bag until now.

I found that putting together homeless blessing bags was super easy in a group!  I did it with my homeschool co-op group, but doing it with your church, school, or work is great too.

Lifting Others Burdens

As a Christian, I want to find opportunities to serve other people. After all, Jesus lifted others’ burdens and so can I. Jesus Christ descended below all things, putting Himself in a position to lift anyone’s burdens. When I lend my strength, abilities, and sometimes monetary resources, to another bogged down by life’s challenges, I act as the Lord’s servant, helping lift another’s load.

December 1 is the Worldwide Day of Service and the perfect day to kick start 25 days of service to others all month long as a way to #LIGHTtheWORLD with charity, kindness, and Christ-like love. We are called to be His lights, His angels, His hands here on Earth.

Mormon.org has provided a calendar of Christ-like behaviors we can try to emulate in our own small and big ways for the first 25 days of December. Each day they provide a new service challenge and suggestions on how to serve in that way. For ideas on how you can serve in your own way, visit Mormon.org each day of December. You can find local service opportunities on JustServe.org as well.

I encourage you to participate in this challenge as you prepare for Christmas Day. Maybe one of these days you can create a blessing bag by yourself or with a group, or otherwise serve a homeless person at Christmastime.

Great group service project idea - Blessing Bags - Homeless Gift - Giving to Homeless - Charity. Keep in the back of your car for an easy something to give to people in need. How to Put Together Homeless Blessings Bags as a Group

In an effort to be the hands and feet of Jesus by assembling these blessing bags, we understood that many hands make light work! It is much easier to assemble several blessing bags as a group than it is by yourself! With a group you split up the bulk buys between individuals (or even better use what individuals already have in bulk), meet up together with your contributions, and set up an assembly line! And before you know it, your blessing bags are assembled, and every family is leaving with 4-5 bags to put in the back of their vehicles for easy blessing delivering!blessings-bags-homeless-gifts-what-homeless-need

What to Put Into Blessing Bags for Homeless

Our group set out to make 50+ bags. Here is what we asked for:

  • 1-2 Families to bring 50 or more Gallon sized Ziploc Bags
  • 5 Families to bring white or black Adult Socks, supplying 10 or more pairs per family
  • 3 Families to bring snacks – granola bars, cheese and crackers, etc
  • 3 Families to bring a case of bottled water
  • 2 Families to bring mini Hand Sanitizer bottles, 25 each
  • 2 Families to provide a pack or two of feminine care Pads
  • 3 Families to provide mini tissues, 20 per family.
  • 3 Families to provide toothbrushes, 15-20 per family
  • 3 Families to provide (small tubes of) toothpaste, 15-20 per family

Some families provided extra items as well, like leftover Halloween candy and floss. There are lots of additional items you can add too! Feel free to expand this list to include other personal care items like a bar of soap, deodorant, combs, sunscreen, band-aids, chapstick, or even hand warmers, as well as more non-perishable food items like beef jerky, raisins, peanuts, mints, gum, or trail mix. Extra things like gift cards to local grocery stores or eateries are a great idea too.

You’ll need to keep in mind how many families or individuals you have in your group and decide on which items are most important for you to include in your blessing bags, and what is most economical and affordable for your group members. Individuals are always free to add more to their bags after the packing party is over.Homeless Blessing Bag Assembly Party - How to make blessing bags for homeless people - group service project - service ideas for families - homeschool service

Our family provided the facial tissue and put several tissues from a regular sized box into small sandwich bags. I had plenty of boxes on hand, and snack bags, and I know those little mini packs never have enough when you need them!

You can call around to different businesses too, like dentist and doctor offices, to see if they are able to donate things like the toothbrushes, toothpaste, bandages, or hand sanitizer.

Make sure you have a place for people to sign up and list what they are bringing so there is a good variety of items in your bags! If some people can’t be there, but want to participate, they can drop off items with another participating family ahead of time.

The Blessing Bag Assembly Party

When it’s finally time to bring all the items together, create an assembly line of the products, starting with the bags and larger items, and ending with the smaller items last.

We had the children grab bags and walk down the line and the adults hand him or her items to put into their bags (so they received the proper amount of each item). It went super quickly. We assembled around 50 bags, like we planned (some maybe missing an item or two as we started to run out of certain items), in about 10 minutes.Homeless Blessing Bag Assembly Party - How to make blessing bags for homeless people - group service project - service ideas for families - homeschool service

But, before we began, we said a prayer over the bags, asking God to lead us those individuals who could use these bags, and to bless those who receive them.

Once we finished our bags, each family grabbed about four or five blessing bags and put them in the back of their vehicles.

Homeless Blessing Bag Cards & Messages

Construction paper and markers and card-making supplies were provided so the children (and adults) could write cards, containing scripture verses, words of encouragement, or simply a nice picture and note. Many simply wrote “Jesus loves you.” My daughter wrote “I know the Gospel is true” on the outside of one of her cards, which touched my heart.

We still need to create some more notes to add to our bags (and toss in a few other extra items we have on hand) and I came across this beautiful printable quote from President Dieter F. Uctdorf, designed by Polka Dot Poplars, that would be perfect to include inside our bags. lift another burdens - blessing bags for homeless - inspiration quote - lds quote - Dieter F. Uchtdorf - LDS - Mormon

I know that when times are tough, it helps knowing you aren’t alone or forgotten, but loved by someone, somewhere. Homeless people need to know that God loves them very, very much, and cares deeply for their welfare (which why He sent you, His hands, His Light, to them).  lift another burdens - blessing bags for homeless - printable - love - LDS - Mormon

The above quote is part of a whole pack of free printables from Polka Dot Poplars with service ideas that I encourage you to check out and use to bless many individuals, homeless or not.

I hope you will take the time to create a blessing bag, or a few, and keep them in your car so that the next time you see someone in need, you can lift another’s burden. We’ve given one away so far, and look forward to the giving away the rest, when the time is right.

Now get out and Light the World!

Comments

  1. Becca says

    This is not a personal criticism, but a general comment. I don’t like blessing bags. I think they’re condescending. In Mosiah 4:26, King Benjamin tells us to give to the poor “according to their wants.” (THEIRS, not ours, not our idea of what they need.) Jesus Christ took the time to talk with the homeless, to get to know them as people; He never would’ve just thrown a bag at them with a cutesy saying about how much they’re loved, and then walked off; He’d show them His love. Blessing bags allow the giver to feel good about themselves, but don’t necessarily provide anything of worth to the receiver. Far better to take the time to talk with the homeless person, to ask what would be useful to them* and provide that, than to give a bag of toiletries that will likely find its way to the nearest trash can.

    *And yes, they may say alcohol; and yes, you are within your rights to decline; but don’t assume that will be the answer every time. My parents used to work with homeless people, and many of them are battling either addiction or mental illness, or both; but they still know their wants and needs much better than you can, if you don’t take the time to ask after them and get to know them as individuals.

    • says

      I totally agree with you Becca! The blessing bags are a bit of “one size fits all” solution aren’t they. Every homeless person has a different story and situation so it’s hard to know that they *all* need socks and toothpaste. I guess I like to think that at least I am doing something, that I’m trying, and that perhaps my forethought about wanting to help a homeless person will positively affect them. But, I’ve never been homeless, so I don’t fully understand. It’s one way to serve, even if it may not be the best way.

      • Becca says

        Whoops, I cross-posted! I’m just very used to being attacked for expressing this opinion. Look, none of us get it right all the time because, as you say, everyone is different and everyone has different circumstances. Some people will love blessing bags and some people will swear at you for offering them. Thank you for taking my comment in the best-possible light. I appreciate your charity.

  2. Becca says

    Please don’t get offended or defensive. People always respond that way whenever I say anything about this subject, or for that matter, whenever I bring up King Benjamin’s admonition to give to the poor “according to their wants.” But if we acknowledge that King Benjamin was a prophet, and if we acknowledge that we are trying to be like Christ – Well, giving a blessing bag is better than doing nothing; but I am saying, Why not go further?

    Obey your instincts and if you feel that a homeless person is dangerous, don’t interact with them. But I have had some truly remarkable experiences from actually taking the time to speak with homeless people. It’s very easy to say, “God loves you.” It’s much harder to show, through your actions, that YOU love them. And God – For so many people, especially for people who are doing it rough, that’s an abstract thought. You are there. You are present. A bag of toiletries is all well and good; but taking the time to say, “Do you need toothpaste? Do you want a comb? Can I buy you a sandwich?” is better, because it’s giving according to their wants, and it’s empowering them to make a decision.

    Perhaps a couple of stories will illustrate. I used to live in a red light district. My husband and I knew the prostitutes, we were on friendly terms, we’d stop and chat and we always smiled and waved. Once a die-hard Catholic friend visited. She really is the most lovely person, she truly glorifies God in her thoughts and actions. But she was so uncomfortable! The entire time she was shying away and fingering her crucifix, like she was warding off evil. If she’d stopped to say, “Hi, I’m Jill, how are you doing today?” they would’ve responded with a, “Hi, yeah, I’m doing okay, how’s this weather huh?” but she was scared of them. I get it; it’s challenging when you’re faced with people who are selling their bodies. But some of Christ’s first disciples were prostitutes. That wasn’t because He shied away from them in fear. It was because He took the time to see them, as people.

    Several years later a man stood up in church to talk about how wonderful he’d been to a homeless man. He’d met this man by chance and immediately raced home and grabbed an old dusty sleeping bag and a pair of shoes and some cans of food and gave them to the man. He was tearing up as he was telling us how marvellous he was. And all I could think was – Did the man need a sleeping bag? It was the middle of summer. Were the shoes the right size? Did he even have a can opener to open the food, or a way of heating it up? All of these practical issues which could’ve been so easily resolved if he’d stopped to say, you know, “Hi, I’m Nathan, nice to meet you, I see you’re doing it a bit rough there, I’ve got an old sleeping bag at home, would that help?” Instead, *he provided the service he thought they should need.* Which is still probably better than doing nothing, but not necessarily (the sleeping bag, food, and shoes may well have just ended up in the trash.)

    I’m not saying I always get it right, because I don’t. I often slip up, I forget to carry small change so I can’t give it away, I walk past the person with the sign because it’s easier and I’m in a hurry. But on those occasions when I’ve actually done better – when I’ve actually reached out and showed that I care, through taking the time to ask what they want and need – it’s been incredible. More than one homeless person has told me that the worst thing about being homeless is being invisible – people don’t see them, or if they do see them, they see them as a nuisance. On a daily basis homeless people have very little choice, they are made to feel that they should be overly grateful for even the smallest gestures of goodwill. It’s actually incredibly empowering to give them a say in the process. (And, by the way, it’s exactly the way Welfare Square operates with their homeless outreach.)

    • says

      I have always thought the “according to their wants” to be very interesting myself! I had a professor at BYU who pointed it out to me and I have thought about it since. The Lord’s system of welfare is definitely an individualized plan, a loving plan, and takes care of you as an individual and what you stand in need of.

      I’ll admit to still being young and naive about a lot of things, and my experience with homeless people is very sparse and mostly just in passing. But, my dad taught me a lot about talking to everyone, and getting to know strangers. He regularly gave and gives service to people he meets of all walks of life and need (even though it can drive my mom batty sometimes). My parents currently have a “roommate” they took in who needed a place to stay. He’s picked up dozens of hitchhikers in his big rig, gave money and rides to people who needed them, and made small talk, complete with a joke and a smile, with just about everyone he came across. He knows all of his neighbors by name and regularly checks in on them and helps them as needed.

      Unfortunately, I’m often more like my mother in this regard, and am too critical and hesitant. I know I need to be more like my dad, and more like Jesus. I hope that a blessing bag might help a homeless person not feel invisible and might meet at least one need of theirs, even if it isn’t the perfect way to serve them.

      • Becca says

        I know this sounds terrible and I hate myself for saying it, but it’s easier for guys, they don’t have to worry about certain things that women have to worry about. So be kind to yourself.

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