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Blessing Bags

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Thursday, January 25

Items to Avoid Putting inside Blessing Bags

If you are putting together a Blessing Bag Checklist, you need to understand that not everything you place into the bags is a smart idea. While the thought might be sound, the actual use of the things you are putting into the bags themselves might not be as pleasing to the end user. I would like to share with you some things that you should NOT put into Blessing Bags and give you the reasons why.


One of the number one things I always tell people if they are planning to make their Blessing Bags is not to put any cash inside them. Even a couple of bucks. Now, this is the part where you're thinking in your head- "But Josh, why? It's ONLY a few bucks."

Listen, the idea behind a Blessing Bag is to be a blessing. I understand you want to help people out,
be it to make a phone call or for them to buy food, but many people will simply use it to buy a beer, put it towards a pack of cigarettes or drugs. The physiological factor to consider here is a factor to think about.

What put them into a homeless situation to begin with? How long have they been homeless and do they have a plan to get out of this rut and get back into a normal part of society?

The answers will vary from person to person, sure. I completely get that. But I also understand that if you're just handing out free money, you can also enable that person to just stay in the current path they are on.

Under any circumstances should you NEVER give a homeless person cash. Buy them something to eat, something to wear, take them in if you want too, but don't give them cash.

Gift Cards

While gift cards are better, they can still be traded in for value. I have found in my own non-profit here many people take advantage of the Blessing Bags, sometimes signing up under 3-4 various names only to get the bags with gift cards in them. While they were usually $5-$10 at places like McDonald's or Walmart, grabbing a few bags add's up and suddenly they have $20-30 where they can sell or trade for something else.

Many people do enjoy getting the cards in the bags, but I have also seen homeless people literally fight over a $5 gift card that we used to place in them, so we simply stopped offering them all together.


I also recommend putting only foods that have a long shelf life and ones that don not melt. Too many times i have people donate things like chocolate for the bags we make here. Listen, that's awesome, but candy melts in the bags and when they do, it get all over everything!

If you're going to put foods inside your blessing bags to hand out then try to think about small items that will not melt or go bad after a few days.

Peanut butter crackers, chewing gum, granola bars are always popular items to put inside the bags. One of the best items that we've been able to put inside them so far are the foil tuna and chicken pouches. They're small, they last a long time and honestly people enjoy them and have given us a lot of positive feedback on them too.

Try to avoid fruits or even those containers of applesauce or fruit with the juice in them. Often times they will leak if the blessing bag is placed with other items in book-bags, suitcases and the like and it can make a mess of things.

Full Sized Items

While full sized items like shampoo and toothpaste might sound like a great idea, most times it's really not so for the homeless person that lives on the streets. You need to understand that the purpose of a Blessing Bag is for the short term, a week, maybe two tops. Think about it form the homeless persons point of view. You have a couple of bags filled with your worldly possessions, clothes, person items and what not. The LAST thing you want to do is lug around full sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and the like.

Try to focus on travel sized items that homeless people can use for a short duration says director Joshua Gabrielson of the Blessing Bag Program.

"People need to understand what it's like living on the streets, while handing out things to homeless people are great, most have no place to put a grocery bag full of items let alone a gallon sized bag. The best size for a Blessing Bag is a quart sized Ziploc style bag."
There are many places that you can pick up travel sized items in bulk and if you work with the manufacturers or distributors directly, you can often get at cost or close to at cost for them too. Think about the items that you can get when you stay at a hotel, they're small, use for a few days type of items.

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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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