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Blessing Bags

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Monday, January 22

Blessing Bags for Homeless

Providing Blessing Bags for the homeless is the number one reason why people create Blessing Bags from their church, organization or they donate to us in order to keep bags being created. While the idea is great, often times people don't tend to think about the long term use of a blessing bag and the contents within it.

Today, I want to share with you some insights when you are starting to you design your own blessing bags, provide some knowledge base from our own perspective and give you an idea of the types of hurdles we often face here at Blessing Bags.

The Short Term Bag

The thought process behind a blessing bag is to help a homeless person get through a period of time and the first thing that comes to mind is food, the next warmth. While both reasons are admirable, this is usually for the short term period and let me explain.

When it comes to food, I've seen everything from chewing gun, packs of crackers, fruit and sandwiches in the blessing bags. Having food in the Blessing Bag is not a bad thing, however most major areas have food banks and their own type of mission where homeless can get a meal at least once a day if not more.

In our own discovery, we found that foods were not really the best solution to put into a bag with one exception, foil packs of tuna or chicken. Easy to open and having a long term shelf life of a couple of years, these relatively new types of tuna or chicken packs are slim, take up very little space inside a bag and they are great for carrying around too. 

If you do put food in the bags, try to think long term rather than short term. Something like an apple is great, but it's bulky, needs to be eaten quickly and many homeless will toss them out or eat them day one.

When it comes to warmth, its nice to have a cheap pair of gloves or a hat inside these bags. The problem is however most homeless already have them and many times they will wind up with many pairs of gloves themselves, often items giving them away or just trashing them.

We did this in 2016 and 2017 however we found a much more usable and better solution based on the feedback that we get from homeless.

Hand warmers.

You can often find them in sport good stores, Walmart store or online at Amazon, most homeless can use them for hours on end and, like the foil packs of meat products, leave a small footprint and are easily storable.

I recommend putting one inside your bag rather than gloves, socks or hats, most likely a homeless person will already have many pairs to being with simply because it's a common items people put into Blessing Bags and given at clothes closets.

Short Term Blessing Bags are not a bad idea, but they usually tend to have a short shelf life or they are meant for specific seasons like winter.

The Long Term Bag

A long term Blessing Bag on the other hand is better suited for someone that is homeless for the long term and many are looking for things that can get use out of when it comes to bags. 

Most bags that we create will have toothpaste and a toothbrush, some form of soap and shampoo in travel size form and items that you can get more than one use, like a comb or lip balm. 

A homeless person is going to usually have a bag with their belongings, sometimes a cart or something that they carry their possessions in, so it's important to think small form factor here when it comes to the items you pass out. 

We typically say that a quart sized Ziploc bag is about the right size as you can stick anywhere form 6-10 items into them. Anything larger means you have to spend more money to put more things int eh bags, not to mention the homeless person will have to carry everything around with them. It's far easier for them to carry a smaller bag filled with contents than it is a gallon sized bag. 

Blessing Bags that are meant for long term usually last about 2-3 weeks unlike the short term bags which usually last 2-4 days. 

Some unique items that you might want to consider is having an envelope with stamp already on it and include two sheets of paper, perhaps an ink pen. That way a homeless person could write a letter to someone if they need to do so and they have a of connecting with someone. Although old fashion, chances are they will spend the time to write a letter to a loved one than spend quarters or dollars on food or something else, when the intention is for them to make a phone call. 

Something else to consider is having a sheet of paper with various organizations in the area that provide needs, like shelter, food, clothing, job placement, rehab and other things that a homeless person might want to know. Many times, homeless people don't have a great deal of knowledge with regards to the help that is within the local area, so it could be effective. 

DON'T promote a business or church, I've found that when you push coming to a church or business, it drives them away. 

You can always have a piece of paper stating where the bags come from such as the church or business, but the point of a Blessing Bag is to help get them out of the homeless state their in, not get them into a church or a business to purchase something. 

When making our bags we place a postcard with our brand and some very basic information so people know where the bags came from. 

Cost Per Blessing Bag

The overall cost of a Blessing Bag can greatly differ depending on who it's for, what sort of donations you can receive and what you have to pay out of pocket.

Of course what also helps is the price point of the items for the bags too. Going to places like BJ's or Sam's Club can greatly help lower the cost buy purchasing in bulk, we here at Blessing Bags have relationships with Amazon and Walmart. While both places offer everything we need, because we're a non profit that solely makes bags, we have a better buying power than most.

That's not to say that if you're a church you can't ask them about better buying power, it doesn't ever hurt to ask.

On the high end of the scale, expect to pay about $1 per item, like purchasing items at the dollar store, on the lower end, if you buy in bulk and buy often, you can grab items for as little as $.15-$.25 each.

Our Blessing Bags currently cost us on average $2.59 each to produce however that wasn't always the case. A few years ago our bags cost upwards of $10 each, when our director, Joshua was fitting the bill himself and purchasing these items with his own funds.

Fortunately, you can also buy our bags here.

Help Us Out

Finally friends, you can help us out by clicking the advertisement below here. When you click on an ad every month, that helps put some funds into our blessing bag account and keeps us going!

Is the director of the Blessing Bag Program which started in 2016. From personally funding the program to becoming a small non-profit, Joshua not only oversee's the making of the bags ,but works with others in the community to make sure they get into the hands of the homeless and needy. Joshua runs the program in his spare time when not working fulltime.

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Roanoke | Virginia