Kids Care for the Homeless
Below is a thoughtful project that was created by my friend Betsy’s 2nd grader (who is now a 4th grader) in San Diego. What I like about it is that you can make it as simple or complex as you have time for—include other kids, or just have it be something you are doing together.
Here’s her quick story for how something that is low-budget and high-touch can positively impact someone’s day:
When my daughter Lily was in 2nd grade, we were driving by a homeless man holding a sign, and she said, “I wish we could do something.” It happened a couple of times, and I felt terrible because I realized we didn't have anything in the car to give him. I didn't really want to give money, so we gave the guy a box of Thin Mints (because Lily was selling Girl Scout cookies at the time), and I promised Lily that we would go to the store and buy some stuff to hand out next time.
Lily liked the idea, but she wanted to take it up a notch. She is really, really social and said, "Let's make it a club!" So we did. Lily asked 6-8 girls to join, and our first club was in August 2012. Our meeting times vary, from every six weeks to sometimes every few months or when the girls run out of bags (since we all live in the same area, the homeless people we see tend to get inundated with bags if we do the club too often!). We meet at our house, in our garage, on a Sunday afternoon, and before that, Lily and I shop for enough items for each girl to make four homeless care packages. We front all the money ourselves and then the other girls pay us back, which makes it a lot easier to coordinate. I try to keep it to about $5/bag, or $20/person. We buy a bunch of toiletries, which we heard from various homeless shelters are good to include. Basically anything that they can use or eat that is non-perishable is helpful. Here’s a list of items we often include:
travel size sunscreen
cough drops in winter
V-8 fusion drinks (which have servings of fruit and veggies)
granola bars (soft, since a lot of homeless don't have good teeth)
mini peanut butter containers
The girls package it all in a Ziplock bag. The best part is that we also buy card stock and put out a bunch of craft supplies and have the girls write cards or encouraging notes, based on the season. I figure that most homeless people don't get cards from kids, and who doesn't like those? They have a lot of fun decorating the cards, and the notes are sweet and funny. At Christmas, we wrap socks and a $5 gift card to Subway (or somewhere where they can get a hot meal for that price) in festive paper with a card and we give them out as Christmas or holiday gifts. The girls keep the bags in their car and hand them out with their parents when they see someone asking for help. We have rarely had someone say they did not want a care package from our child. They named the club "Kids Care for the Homeless," and the club has really opened their eyes to the needs in our community.