Just wanted to share our awesome Christmas Eve experience/service opportunity we had. I love the "raw" service opportunity where you get to actually see where what you are donating is going, and to whom. It is so much more satisfying, that is why I loved the blessing bag idea. So I ran with it and with the help of Clint, and my sister-in-law, gathered together more blessing bags but put them in Trader Joes bags with a few other items (towels, cans of soups, etc) for the homeless shelter we planned to visit Christmas Eve morning. We also gathered shirts, pants, shoes, jackets, coats, blankets and Tyra prepared some wrapped presents for children. My sister-in-law Tyra already wrote about our experience and her feelings mirror mine so I will just share her story:
Our first stop was to "The Shepherds Door" and Shelter for women and their children trying to get back on their feet. We brought a bag filled with lotions, bodywash, and the wrapped gifts inside for children. There were no familys there to be seen, but the wonderful lady we talked to was so thankful and positive. She also let us know just what was needed for the next time we come. Clint and Aaron were driving and all the kids were piled into our cars, eating crakcers, and watching a movie. We were literally 2 miles from that shelter when Clint pulled over on the side of the road and Jen jumped out, motioning me to come and help. She popped the trunk while a man walked towards us. We handed him the bag and asked what else he needed, he took a pair of pants, shoes, hoodie, and jacket, and a water bottle. He was so thankful! He wasnt gready. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and hug him....I could hardly hold back the tears as I got back into the comfortable heated car, and resumed my handing out of crackers and jerky to our children. What an amazing contrast of life. It was so hard to understand. That man broke the ice for us. We made our way to the large Homeless shelter. Which is pretty much a sidewalk full of people. We pulled over to the curb behind Clint, Jen jumps out again, and so do I. I was a little apprehensive, since there were so many people. As soon as we opened the trunk people came, we were able to hand out all that we had, plus more (Jen and Clint gave stuff they had stored in their car, the coat off of Clints back) in about 5 minutes. There was one very tall, black man. In a long Black trench coat asking if I had anything for children. We didnt. I got all the information from him that I could and told him we would do our best to get it and come back. He said he would wait for us. So we went straight to the Goodwill right up the road from there. We were discusted at their prices!! Absolutly rediculous! ( I mean really, they should be ashamed). We found an outfit, shoes, socks, and a coat for 5,7, 9 year old boys and a 4 year old girl. We also found backpacks/duffle bags for each of them also. We had also got 4 more pairs of mens shoes, and a vest. We separated them all out into the bags and headed to the McDonalds. We bought 50 hamburgers (well clint bought some chicken sadwiches also, variety lol) and headed right back to the Shelter. Aaron and Clint jumped out with the bags of hot burgers, and other clothing items while Jen and I put on the packs and started looking for the two children inside, a 7 year old and a 4 year old, and the 2 boys that belonged to that kind eyed needy father who said he would wait for us. And we couldnt find them! Hamburgers were recieved with such gratitude, and again, there were so many of them looking out for eachother, not taking more than one. We were pointed in the direction of a "Gospel Mission" a block away where we might find the familys. We rang the bell and waited for someone to open the door. Hoping we would find them inside. When someone finally answered the door he said that there were no familys there.....what to do? We were so reluctant to leave the bags there. Even though we were assured they would get to those who needed them, we really had in our hearts this one family and their children....so we left them, with tags for what bag went to what age and sex. Walking out I felt a sence on frustration, and did not want to leave. We stood there talked for a minute, and finally got into our cars, accepting the fact that he wasnt going to be coming. As Aaron put the car into drive and checked the mirrors he says, "There he is!"...The man came walking around the corner with his wife and 2 sons. It was Him!!!!!We jumped out and ran to the door of the building we left the bags in. While waiting told the family what we had gotten for them. When we were finally able to hand the bags to each boy and tell them what was inside, they smiled like you wouldnt belive! The 9 year old said in disbelief "For me!?" Can you belive it, a set of clothes, shoes, and a coat, in a bag, his very own, he could not believe it. You would have thought we gave him a bag of toys and candy.......My heart broke. I felt relief that we had found them, a sence of fulfilling our commitment, and a shock and helplesseness at the inability I had to really do something, more. Couldnt we do more? I didnt want to leave, I had to tear myself from that corner and get in the car, but what esle was there for us to do right then? Well we did what we could, we planned the whole way home of what we are going to do next year. We talked the rest of the weekend, about whats most needed, how often and how to get it. ALthough I left reluctently, feeling I could have done more, the smile on the faces of those people, those children, was the most spiritually satisfying experience for me. An experience that changed our Christmas forever. How could we go back to what we did before, it would feel so meaningless. I look forward to ironing out some wrinkles in the plan, researching, and doing more this next year. And really being able to make a difference. Dont give your clothing items to The Goodwill! GIve them to the Homeless shelter in your area! Your would not believe the need.
I also want to express that if we could save our used items and donate them to a truly good cause (rather than Goodwill, whose CEO's salary was over $600,000 last year) they would get to the hands of those who really could use the clothing and other items. If I thought the prices at Goodwill were high then I can only imagine what a person in a worse circumstances would think. How can they afford it!? Isn't the point of Goodwill to be affordable? I thought Target is a better place to shop, I knew I could find the same prices there...but at least they are new!
Anyways, I would hope that any of you who have items to donate might save them to donate to the homeless or directly to others in need. Save them for a similar cause, because there was no better experience to be had than to give and see their faces! Especially on Christmas Eve. There was nothing more satisfying, fullfulling, and enjoyable we could have done that day!