Blessings come in various ways, but for 117 homeless people in Connecticut, blessings came in Ziploc bags.
As a service project for faith formation, students at St. Luke Church, Ellington, collected snacks, toiletries and warm socks to create 117 “Blessing Bags” for homeless centers in Rockville, Manchester and Hartford. The idea was the brainchild of the parish’s catechetical leader, Kim Bocchino. One of the parts of the diocese’s new faith formation curriculum is the emphasis on age-appropriate service projects for all students. Creating the “Blessing Bags” was a way to get everyone – students in Kindergarten through grade 9 and their families – involved.
In keeping with Jesus’ message in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,” Bocchino said, “I think it’s important for students to know we need to care for others. We try to teach our students that God is living in all of us; therefore, we need to care for everyone.”
Each class was assigned a particular item to donate for the project, including Ziploc bags, snack-sized peanut butter and cheese crackers, water bottles, Slim Jims, toothbrushes, travelsized toothpaste and hand wipes, granola bars and trail mix. Monetary donations were also accepted and used to put $5 to $10 gift cards for a fast-food restaurant or supermarket into some of the bags.
In addition, the parish collected 93 pairs of socks to include in most of the bags. Students wrote and decorated index cards with Bible verses and inspirational quotes that were put into each bag. “Our goal was to make 100 bags, and we were able to fill 117,” Bocchino said, acknowledging the generosity and support of the students and their families.
When the project began in late February, the plan was for students in grade six to collate the items and fill the bags. The bags would then be given to families and parishioners to keep in their cars and pass them on when they encountered someone in need. However, when the order to shelter in place came in mid-March due to COVID-19, Bocchino and another parish staff member assembled the bags and donated them to local shelters.
One of the recipients was The House of Bread, a ministry serving the hungry, homeless, and needy in Hartford. In a thank you note for the bags, Sisters Maureen Faenza and Theresa Fonti, co-directors, wrote, “How very thoughtful and kind of you to send so many gift bags filled with all necessary items for the guests who come to the House of Bread…It is so comforting to know that the needy in Hartford are not forgotten. Truly you are responding to the Gospel call to care and assist those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin, Catholic Family Services