Creating Care Packages for the Homeless

Poptart and I were appalled recently by what, in our opinion, could be called the War on the Homeless. Ignorant and cruel memes flooding Facebook, newspaper editorials from citizens complaining about having to “put up” with the less fortunate, and downright abuse and assaults like what happened to Kelly Thomas make it seem that America is a country that delights in kicking someone when he or she is down. People call the homeless lazy as if this is a worthy excuse for their hate and neglect, and they make their judgment without even knowing a person’s story. With the economic downturn, rising costs of living, and loss of quality jobs, it’s not as hard to become homeless as many assume. And it’s time people started bravely posting statements of love instead of hate.

Poptart and I live in the Bay Area, where there is a large homeless population. We’ve met a lot of homeless people. Frankly, they are some of the nicest people we’ve met. People are too complicated to put into a category, to be given a label, to be forgotten. And people should be ashamed for passing judgment as casually as they order a latte.

Poptart and I wanted to work against this antipathy toward the homeless by creating care packages for as many as we could afford so they know that there are still some who care and who have the capacity for love.  We’ll walk you through the care package and how we dispersed them in case you want to give to the homeless as well.

First, we came up with a list of items we would love to receive if we were homeless. The recent cold spell in California that has resulted in the deaths of some of the homeless reminded us how important things like blankets and socks are. We also thought vitamin and mineral deficiencies and hydration would be a major issue for someone with little access to food and water. We also wanted to include a little luxury item just for the lifting of spirits. Keeping all of this in mind, the list we came up with includes a quilt, socks, fruits and vegetables, chocolate, and a drink.  Poptart had the wonderful idea of using a 5 gallon bucket to place the items in so their recipient can protect them from the elements and use the bucket for personal hygiene or as a chair.

The quilts Poptart made by hand and used freshly laundered but worn out t-shirts for the filling.  We found nice, warm fleece on sale at a craft store. This was, by far, the most expensive item in the bucket ($60 for four quilts), but it was also the most important item, we felt.

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Poptart knitted the socks. She made them thick and big to be worn at night.  She made them from existing craft supplies, so this item cost nothing.

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Poptart also went to our local farmer’s market for fruits and vegetables. This allowed her to get a lot for a low cost and support local vendors. She got apples, but she also got oranges in case the recipient doesn’t have the teeth to handle the apple. She also got carrots because they are durable and last a long time. She got enough fruits and vegetables to fill four buckets for only $14. We washed and dried all of the produce before putting it in the buckets so it’s ready to eat. Keep in mind that recipients of the care package might not have easy access to clean water to do these basic things.

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For a drink, we chose PowerAde. We were going to go with water, but we decided on a sports drink instead because it hydrates while restoring electrolytes. A big pack of PowerAde bottles cost us just $5.

For the special luxury item, we got bars of Belgian milk chocolate (of course) for each bucket.

This time, we were able to put together four bucket care packages. Each bucket contained three bottles of PowerAde, a quilt, a pair of socks, a bag of fruits and vegetables, and a bar of chocolate. Finally, we put a content list on the lid of the bucket with pictures in case the recipient can’t read and a note wishing the owner a happy holiday season.

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We drove into San Francisco to hand out the buckets. We gave one away to a man on Fisherman’s Wharf. He seemed to be most excited about the fruit, and it warmed our hearts to see him sorting through his treasures as we walked away. We gave two more buckets away on Haight to a couple. They thanked us, and the lady told Poptart she’s pretty. They also said they would have to volunteer at the Salvation Army to repay the kindness. When we drove away, the man was going through his bucket and seemed happy.  The last bucket went to a man outside the Posey tube in Oakland. He was a little wary at first but took the bucket once we explained it had fruit inside. He seemed to think we were playing a trick on him but thanked us once he realized the gesture was genuine.

I’ve heard people say that some “homeless” are con artists and that people who give to them are suckers. Well, we’d rather be suckers with the chance of helping one person genuinely in need than to be scrooges making the world a colder, more hateful place for everyone. Altogether, the buckets cost around $100, but they brought smiles to four people. I consider this a worthy investment, and it was much more fulfilling than wasting the money on something we don’t need. If you make your own care packages and distribute them, consider what items would be most useful but also include a treat. What would you want to find in your bucket? Remember, crafting a better tomorrow for those around you crafts a better world for you and future generations.

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Spreading Holiday Cheer with Handcrafted Ornaments

To continue the random acts of kindness started with Poptart’s tiny turkeys, Poptart made a bunch of handcrafted ornaments to give away with no strings attached (except for the ones that hold the ornament on the tree, of course).

Please remember that many are suffering financially this holiday season, and a smile and kind gesture from a stranger can not only brighten a person’s day but help him or her survive. And you don’t have to spend a lot to show you care. Poptart made all of the ornaments you see in these pictures from existing supplies in her craft closet. Most of these supplies were bought at local shops like Scrap for very little money.

Poptart decided to hand out ornaments because wherever they are placed, they will remind their owner that others care. The ornaments Poptart made include picture frames; Santas, reindeers, and carolers from wine corks; crocheted wreaths; and chenille stick Santas. She also made adorable carolers from paper towel tubes and elves from wooden beads. Literally, your supply list if you want to make similar items is as follows: yarn, a few pieces of felt, chenille sticks, wine corks, metal hooks (for antlers), paper towel rolls, a couple pieces of foam sheets, wooden beads, pom pom balls, cotton balls, googly eyes (yes, that’s technical crafting jargon), and hot glue sticks.

We will be handing out these cute bits of Christmas Cheer at the Oakland Children’s Parade on Saturday, December 7th. If you happen to receive one, you can post your picture with the ornament on Twitter with #craftingkindness, and we will post your picture below! Most importantly, please pass on random acts of kindness so we can all craft a better tomorrow!

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Update: The parade was amazing! And we had a blast distributing the ornaments. We witnessed many of them find new homes, and people have already started posting pics with their discoveries!

 

Spreading Happiness with Tiny Turkeys

During this consumer-driven time of year, getting and giving something handmade sends a nice reminder of what the holidays are all about, especially when those handmade items are given away to strangers as a random act of kindness. We’re all flustered trying to get everything done that we often forget to enjoy what’s right in front of us. An unexpected gift can help us embrace joy, and these days, joy is priceless. Poptart decided to make tiny turkeys and give them away this Thanksgiving to remind people of the importance of unexpected gifts and random acts of kindness.

Poptart made these tiny turkeys from chenille sticks, and we will be distributing them on Thanksgiving Day at The Little Ice Rink at South Shore Center in Alameda, CA. We chose this spot to release the turkeys because the city is family friendly, safe (though lock your cars and hide valuables due to the increase in car thefts in the Bay Area), and has plenty of parking. The turkeys will congregate on tables, chairs, and nooks and would love to find a good home where they can brighten a shelf, mantel, or hold a family photo.

If you find a turkey, take your picture with it and post it on Twitter with #tinyturkey. All pictures will be posted below! And pass on a random act of kindness to show your gratitude this Thanksgiving! After all, ’tis the season of tiny turkeys!

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Update: We didn’t receive any pictures of the tiny turkeys, but as we were setting them out, a woman passing picked up two, and when we drove by later, they were all gone. We hope they warmed the hearts and homes of whoever found them!