This blog was featured on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls
Today I hosted a large group of community members who assembled 25 big bikes and 105 duffel bags full of items for local foster kids. When kids enter the foster system they usually get a garbage bag to carry their belongings. Instead we wanted them to have a sturdy bag full of a stuffed animal, coloring books, crayons, a hair brush, toothbrush/toothpaste, toiletry bag, books, and a warm blanket.
I started this project in October, in the heat of election season negativity. I’d done this project previously and it does my heart good to see so many people contribute to such a great cause. My garage slowly filled up with donations for the bags, every day more came in (from people of all political leanings). We met our fundraising goal to purchase the 25 bikes on November 9th, a day I needed good news.
I don’t share this story to toot my own horn, but to show you there is so much good out there. Sometimes you have to go looking for it, sometimes you have to create it. I encourage you to find ways to spread kindness, to get involved. And get your friends and family involved too. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help out if you just ask them.
A bunch of my friends and family (and strangers) each gave a little bit and it added up to a lot of love for local kids. There’s a lot of work to do, but if we all do a little it’ll add up quick. So get out there and kick some ass.
We did this project through Together We Rise — for those who are interested in learning more. They can help you do this project in any part of the country.
It’s a nonprofit, so you can set up a fundraising page there and any donations are tax deductible. This year we did Bikes and Sweet Cases. The Sweet Cases can either come to you with all the contents (blanket/coloring book/crayons/toothbrush/stuffed animal) for $25. Or you can just have them send the duffel bags for $10. The duffel bags they have are really nice, so this year we just went with having them send the duffel bags and I filled them with stuff that people sent. I’ve found that people really really like to send stuff to put in the bags, and the stuff they send is higher quality than the stuff that Together We Rise sends (except the teddy bears, TWR have great teddy bears).
People like giving money, but I’ve found that people end up spending more money on stuff to send to you (Amazon is a great place for them to send stuff straight to you). It’s just a matter of figuring out what you want to put in the bags, then putting out the call for it. I put stuffed animal/books/coloring books/crayons/toothbrush/toothpaste/floss/mini shampoo, conditioner, lotion/nice big blanket/hair brush. I do about 1/4 of the bags for teens and put adult color books/pencils/journal/YA books/large hanging toiletry bag in theirs. I accept gently used books/stuffed animals — but everything else needs to be new.
I set up the donation page to last about a month or more, then it takes another few weeks for the bags to get shipped. So it’s a couple month project. But if you don’t allow enough time then people might not get around to sending you stuff. Every time someone donates money or items I thank them and tag them on Facebook with a link to the project fundraising page. I always get interest from friends of friends who see those posts.
The assembly day is so fun and you can rally your friends to come assemble the bags. People love it — and it helps them feel involved. Then they will get more involved the next year.
It’s a great project that renews your faith in humanity. I set sorta high goals, but you could start with a lower amount of bags.