During the winter of 2015, while driving home from somewhere, it was beyond cold. I had the heat going full blast in the car and still was shivering. I drove past the old Merritt Bakery on East 18th and caught glimpse of a couple sleeping in the doorway. No blanket, just huddled closely on the cement slab. I am not sure I can even describe the feeling that came over me. Sadness doesn’t cut it. When I arrived home, in my heated home and laid down on my cozy bed, I almost wanted to cry. Here I was with a roof over my head, heat and a comfortable bed when that couple was laying out in the freezing cold on hard concrete. I closed my eyes when a still small voice whispered in my ear, “sleeping bags.” Sleeping bags? Almost like I was having a debate with someone, “Yes, sleeping bags.” Ok, I thought, sleeping bags, but those things are expensive!! The final whisper was, “Ask and they will provide.”
Sleeping Bags 4 Homeless, #SleepingBags4Homeless, was born. I looked up sleeping bags for sale and got smacked with the basic $79.99 price. Others were even more. Undaunted, I talked to my group, Family Wellness Group. We were know as We Are Family Wellness back then. I talked to the leaders and they thought it was a good idea. No one was sure how much support we would attract but they agreed there was a need and would support me. I created a gofundme page. Setting a goal of $2500. I silently prayed if we earned enough money for one sleeping bag, just one, I would be happy. Well that still small voice was right. We didnt earn enough for just one.
We raised enough funds for over 175 sleeping bags!! My first two bags purchased went to the couple in the Merritt Bakery doorway. Not only sleeping bags, but item donations of over 200 blankets, socks, tolietries and water. We handed out sleeping bags and supplies in Oakland, Emeryville, Vallejo and Sacramento. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the community. My family, friends, and strangers made it possible to provide the homeless warmth during the cold nights. We found every internet deal on sleeping bags for sale. Several family and friends traveled city to city to buy out different retail stores. So many came together and the $2500 goal was shattered. We raised $6180!! The handout events became more than I even thought of.
I became known as the Bag Lady and I accept that title with a smile. A year has since passed, and currently 2016 Sleeping Bags 4 Homeless is in full effect. We had our first handout on Saturday, December 10th and handed out over 65 sleeping bags, blankets, hats, gloves, tolietries, warm chili, breakfast bars, water and gatorade. Over 30 people came out in the drizzling rain to minister to the homeless. Once again the donations and support by family, friends and strangers is beyond humbling.
Sleeping Bags 4 Homeless 2016 season numbers are in!!! In Dec and Jan a combined 278 sleeping bags, 346 care packages, 120 chili servings not to exclude the blankets, coats, sweatshirts, socks, gloves, hats, scarfs, snacks, fruit, gatorade, and water handed out by over 50 volunteers in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Vallejo and San Francisco!! The increased donations and effective shopping allowed for a 59% increase in sleeping bags and being able to provide the homeless with more.
I am beyond amazed by the outpouring of support and love from each and every one of YOU!! Thank you from my entire heart. #SleepingBags4Homeless #beingWarmisaGift is going to go next level for the 2017 season!!
The homeless community has grown this year. The camps are larger. Thus the need is greater. Handing out sleeping bags is a bandaid. I do not want to hand out a sleeping bag every year to the same person. I am hoping the city of Oakland will adopt an idea that has been done in Los Angeles, where they turned shipping containers into living quarters for homeless veterans. It is my hope that the Bay Area could do something like here for the homeless population. It is cheaper to house them, than to clean up behind them.
Until a solution is implemented, people need our help.
I had no idea that Sleeping Bags 4 Homeless would become the ministry it has. But it is a ministry. Ministry is an act of serving. Taking a step beyond ourselves and serving others. It is an honor to serve the homeless and it is my hope to truly do more. https://www.gofundme.com/sb4homeles... Please share and donate to SB4H gofundme page. If you would like to make item donations, please inbox me at https://www.facebook.com/sleepingbags4homeless/ I would like to hit multiple cities with multiple crews at the same time. The time to serve continues and I am honored to provide service to the homeless. Sleeping Bags 4 Homeless, amazing what listening to a still small voice can do!!