Early this summer, we watched a movie called Little Red Wagon, about a boy who set out to help homeless people. It all started with a neighborhood food drive. By the end of the movie we were all inspired. When it was over, I thought, "hmm, our city surely has some homeless shelters, I wonder what we could do to help." That's how our project began, and now that it's complete, I thought I'd share how this family service project unfolded and hopefully inspire some of you to find a way to serve your community with your kids!
I started by doing an Internet search for local shelters and soon found one that caters to women and families. I found a website and a facebook page and quickly saw that they were looking for food donations as well as items for a kids' program they run on weekends. It didn't take long to find a couple of contact emails and soon I was in touch with a volunteer who runs the kids' program and another person who could tell me what food items they are most in need of right now.
Choose a Food Bank or Shelter
We decided to run a neighborhood food drive to collect food donations for that shelter. When we heard that the kids' program was in need of small toys to use as prizes for the games they play, I immediately thought of Hasbro. We really love Hasbro and have been privileged to work with them several times in the past (most notably when they sent our kids some toys after they lost the majority of theirs to smoke damage).
I was so happy that they wanted to partner with us again, to help us with our project to help this local shelter. It was an exciting day when these packages arrived from Hasbro! We couldn't wait to open them up and see what toys they had sent.
They sent nearly 200 little toys from their different collectible toy lines! They would be the perfect size for prize toys for the kids' programs at the shelter.
Here's a closer look at the seven different kinds of surprise toys they sent:
1. Lock Stars
2. Lost Kitties
3. Ugly Dolls
4. Transformers Rescue Bots Academy
5. My Little Pony Cutie Mark Crew
6. Littlest PetShop Lucky Pets
7. Power Rangers Micro Morphers
Each of these toys has a surprise element to it, so we were excited for the fun they would bring to some kids whose families have been having a difficult time. The movie we watched followed the story of a young boy & his mother who ended up homeless and had to leave most of their possessions behind. We could imagine what it must be like to receive (or have your child receive) even a small fun toy after something like that and I'm excited that we could help to send some joy their way in the midst of a struggle!
Make a Flyer
We put together a flyer that was written like a letter to our neighbors, explaining who we are, what we're doing, who we're donating to, what items are most needed, and when we would pick up the items.
This step isn't necessary, but it definitely made things easier! A friend of mine had done a neighborhood food drive recently and she was able to buy some bags from a local grocery store whose bags are bright yellow and handed them out to her neighbors with the invitation to donate. I thought this was a great idea because it would help our flyers to stand out and it would make it easy for us to be able to tell which homes had donations for us when we did our pick up.
Attach Flyers to Bags
We decided to hand out 100 bags to see what kind of participation we would get since it was our first time trying something like this. We stapled a flyer to each bag- this is a great job for kids to help with.
Deliver the Bags/Flyers
We handed out the flyers on a super hot Saturday, with a heat warning and not a cloud in the sky. The only time we had available to do it was during peak heat hours, so none of us will forget that experience! We came home and were melting ice cubes on our skin to cool down!
Pick Up Donations
Pick Up time was scheduled for the following Saturday morning and everyone was so excited to get started! We drove around the neighborhood, watching for yellow bags on porches and the girls had fun hopping out of the car and loading things into the trunk. We were excited whenever we picked up a yoga mat (something the shelter requested for their kids' programs) and some of the other specially needed items.
We came home to unload the trunk a couple of times and were excited to see what we were able to gather!
That morning we loaded the car up with donations and drove it over to the shelter.
Saying Thank You
A few days after we made our donation, I received an email from the shelter, thanking us and our neighborhood for our donation. When we set out to gather the donations, we knew that we wanted to send a thank you note to the people who participated, so we took note of each address that left a donation. When we got the thank you email, I put together a little flyer/letter to our neighbors, passing the thanks on to them and delivering them was the final step to complete our project.
Making an Impact - On the Shelter & On Us
Now that the project is complete, I can't help but be impacted by this experience. In the end, it didn't feel like it took as much work & effort as I thought it would. Sure it was work, and it took planning and coordination, but we thoroughly enjoyed doing it, knowing that we were helping people. The amount of work we put in compared to the outcome in the end was more than worth it, and I felt that it was surprisingly easy overall, to make this happen. We had managed to gather a lot of food and donate a lot of toys that will be able to help a lot of people!
We are just one little family and we didn't have a lot of our own money to donate, but with some time and effort, and the help of our neighborhood & Hasbro, we were able to really make a difference. If you have any interest in taking on a project like this, I would encourage you to do so- it was very rewarding and I think it's an awesome thing for kids to be involved with.