Operation Helping Hands began as a small effort in my garage. One day, my children, some of their friends, and I filled up 50 brown bags of hygiene products and blankets. We then went to a heavily populated homeless area to personally deliver the bags. My youngest son passed out the first bag to a woman who thanked him profusely, exclaiming that it was her only Christmas gift. My son, clearly touched and astounded by this proclamation, looked up at me and asked, “So we are going to go find more people right?” I knew this was the beginning of something truly special.
However, it was clear that our 50 brown bags were grossly inadequate. I knew from personal experience that these items would be quickly lost or discarded if the homeless did not have a way to transport them. I decided to purchase backpacks to fill up instead. I added t-shirts, sweatshirts, socks, flip flops, beanies, ponchos, and gloves, depending on the season.
The positive impact of this project on my own children and their friends motivated me to reach out to local high schools to involve other teenagers as well. Now, approximately 200 teenagers volunteer to assemble the packs for each event, or individually hand them out on delivery day. We currently package and deliver about 2,500 backpacks a year. Somehow, it never feels like enough.