Blessing Bags of Love – for Missoula’s Homeless

By ERIN TURNER

The last few mornings here in Missoula  have been a subtle reminder from Mother Nature that our days of flip flops and lounging by the pool are numbered.

When fall arrives, I inherently start to “nest.”  I become a canning maniac and my poor freezer gets stuffed to its max, my menu shifts from light salads and pasta dishes to heavier stews and casseroles.  It’s my way of preparing for the cold winter.

During this season of winter preparation, I also can’t help but think about those in our community who are homeless or needy.  While I’m preparing my summer bounty of food, I wonder how they prepare.  I know some move to warmer locations or towns with larger shelters, but a majority stay here and suffer through our long, cold winters.

Regardless of their reason for being on the streets, my heart aches for them and I struggle with ways I can help.  Giving money to them directly isn’t a solution.  I’ve heard about people giving gift cards to restaurants and I like that idea.  We try to support the local shelters, but I also want my kids to learn to be proactive and compassionate so just writing a check to a shelter isn’t what I want them to learn.

Recently I came across what I think is a wonderful solution for my family and I want to share it with you.  There are a number of websites out there promoting this idea and it really hit home with me.

The idea is to prepare bags with various toiletries and snacks in them.  Then have these ready in the car so when you come across a homeless person, you hand them a bag.  If you have been super couponing for awhile then hopefully you have a stockpile of items which you bought for pennies or even got free, so this “Blessing Bag” project will be perfect for you!  By shopping your shelves, you’ll be able to put together a number of bags and will be able to share the love with many of the homeless or needy in ourcommunity.

Here are some items we have gathered from our shelves and will be using in our family’s first Bounty Bags:  (place all of these into a gallon sized plastic bag)

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Band-aids
  • Granola Bars
  • Bar of soap
  • Pack of gum
  • Chapstick
  • Package of tissues
  • Knit gloves
  • Pudding (with a plastic spoon)
  • Wet wipes
  • Deodorant
  • A few coins (for phone calls or a cup of coffee)

After reading some of the comments off the websites, I would suggest putting the food items into a separate bag and then place it in the larger bag.  This way the pack of gum won’t taste like soap!  Also, a bottle of mouthwash is probably not a good idea since many have high alcohol content.  In addition, depending on what’s in the bag and the temperature, you may not want to leave the bags in your car for a long time.  Maybe just take 1-2 when you know you will be out and leave the others at home.

Be creative and add your own items!  I thought it’d be neat to have the kids make little cards and add them to the bags also.  You can tailor your bags according to the season as well.  I bought a plethora of knit gloves on clearance last year, so these will come in handy for bags which we hand out this fall/winter.  But in the spring/summer, sunscreen may be a good item to include.

That’s what is so fulfilling about this project—you spend time thinking about what a homeless person may really need.  It actually is very humbling.  What a wonderful opportunity for your kids to see first hand how truly lucky they are to live in a home and have what they have.

I was excited to share this idea with you this week!  Missoula is and always has been a place of charitable hearts so I thought this project would be of interest to many of you!  I also know the couponing community of Missoula is extremely generous and are always looking for ways to share their bounty of great deals!!

Enjoy this blog?  You might also like Erin’s previous posts on Back to School Budget Meal Planning,  Back to School Shopping on a Budget,  Discount Shopping Deals…Even on Vacation,  Orchard Homes Country Life Club Celebrates 100 Years and 10 places to Hunt for Coupons.   AND, be sure to check out the “Missoula Save it Club”  on the home page of MakeItMissoula.com (See the Daily Missoula Fix buttons in the left navigation bar) for savings updates throughout the week!

Back to the Save It blog home page.

Click here to see the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian.  Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques and trying to maintain a well-run, happy and organized home for herfamily.