Do you ever unintentionally overschedule yourself? I signed myself and Amelia up to volunteer at a men’s overnight shelter in our neighborhood on the same day that I also said I’d host one of her Brownie Troop meets. Of course, I didn’t even realize this when I was making those commitments. While I was thinking about all that shuffling around and trying to nail down my Brownie meet topic, it was suddenly obvious that I should connect the dots. Amelia and I were to bring desert to the shelter, so why not work with troop to create Easter baskets filled with goodies instead? This would be a great lesson on how to help the homeless and have fun while doing it.
To kick off the meeting, I pulled together a quick lesson on the history of the Easter egg and a bunch of fun facts. Of course, their favorite tidbit was about the largest chocolate egg, which weighed 110 lbs. Then, I reminded the girls that, as with all religions, the holidays are a time to reach out and help others. I explained that we’ll be making Easter baskets for 12 men who don’t have a home to go to every night. Even though most of the guys have jobs, they can’t make ends meet, but are trying really hard. (Read this New York Times article, In New York, Having a Job or 2 Doesn’t Mean Having A Home). Some Easter treats would certainly brighten their day and show them our support.
We set off to make a total mess and assemble the Easter baskets. I bought a bunch of jumbo plastic eggs and stickers to decorate them and candy to stuff inside. Plus, I picked up Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies snack packs and Hershey’s Chocolate Bunnies to stash in there too. The girls also made cards that said Happy Easter! Love Troop 3108. The meeting flew by. The girls had a blast. Yes, a few chocolate bunnies went missing.
After the meet, Amelia and I, along with another mom/daughter duo, delivered the baskets to the shelter which is a partnership between the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and St. James Church. We placed them on the table in the center of the room. All the guys arrived at the same time because they were coming from another church that served dinner. When they walked in, they were so surprised! They had huge smiles on their faces and were genuinely touched by the troop’s efforts. It was very impactful for Amelia, and myself, and our friends, to witness how much the guys truly appreciated it.
We stuck around for about an hour to hang out with the guys, serve juice, microwave leftovers and play some games. Amelia had a grueling chess match with one of them that was hilarious, especially when he muttered a few bad words after she made a good move, then called her crafty. She wants to go back. We will.
In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression with more than 52,000 people without a home every night. While we can’t help everyone, we learned that we can make a difference in the lives of 12 men.
If you want to organize a similar community service project for your children, I think working with a small, screened shelter is amazing because the kids can really connect with whom they’re helping. Shelters like these are open throughout the year, so holiday or not, they always need help. To find out more about this shelter, check out the St. James Church website.