Blessing bags with food, toiletries donated for homeless

Greek community partners with Americorps to collect donations

By Sidney Birkett

October 7, 2015

 

Megan Mahon doesn’t like thinking about the harsh realities that come with homelessness, especially when it involves children.

That’s why she, as the philanthropy chairperson and event coordinator, helped start the Blessing Bag fundraiser, which are small bags containing essentials for the homeless. These items include drinks, food and toiletries.

“You think of adults, you don’t typically think of students or children,” Mohan said. “It wasn’t something that I thought of affecting children. It’s very negative and I don’t think you want to think about that.”

This fall, the local Greek community is joining Americorps in Blessing Bags fundraiser aiming to collect those necessities for the local homeless population, as well as to build awareness for the issue. This event, currently ongoing, runs through the end of October.

Jena Schnabel, homeless student coordinator at CESA #2, created the event.

“Basically what I’m doing is creating a fundraiser and trying to create awareness throughout our community about rural homelessness, specifically with youth,” Schnabel said. “And so I’m doing a blessing bags initiative, which is collecting donations like basic goods to help children.”

The idea was set in place with help from social media websites such as Pinterest, where blessing bags have gained immense popularity. From there, Schnabel contacted the Greek community in Whitewater.

“I was in a sorority myself so I know how important philanthropy is to what they do on campus. So I contacted them personally and asked them if they would help,” Schnabel said. “[Mahon] responded back to me and she said, ‘Yes,’ that she would like to help.”

Mahon aids the event from the side of the Greek community. The community will help collect donations and assemble the individual blessing bags for distribution.

“We’re going to combine them in different little packages and send them to central Wisconsin, where the teachers are going to get a certain number and they can distribute them to classes,” Mahon said.

While this event is in its early stages of development, it is planned to start collecting more donations. Ideas expressed by Mahon include collection boxes in various organizations on campus, some table advertising, and contacting specific Learning Communities that donate items for extra credit in their class.

Homelessness means a variety of things, Mahon said. She says the population is much more than beggars on the street and in cars. It is composed of students, children, and families.

“You think of panhandlers and the stereotypical, visual homelessness, but a lot of people in south central Wisconsin are doubling up… with family members or friends due to economic hardship,” Schnabel said.

This initiative is not only aiming to help the homeless directly, it is meant to raise awareness to the issue.

“To increase the public’s visibility and so they can better identify homeless youth. That’s the goal of it. To get people thinking about it, to ask questions,” Schnabel said. “‘Is that kid homeless?’ You don’t know.”

While this event is in its first year, Schnabel and Mahon hope that it will become a recurring event.

“We’re trying to create sustainable programs in the communities that we’re serving.” Schnabel said. “I’m hoping to pass it on to the next vista that comes along, because a vista will be here for three years. And hopefully within three years the initiative will be sustainable.”

Community members and students are encouraged to help out. Donations can be dropped off through October, and can be made at donation boxes. Currently the date set to assemble the blessing bags is Nov. 10.

“They could contact me, and I could always find something for them to do. Or contact Megan and drop off donations,” Schnabel said. “Or if they want to help assemble they can definitely do that.”

For more information on how to help out, contact can be made with both Mahon, [email protected] and Schnabel,
[email protected]

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