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Can You Spare a Dime?

Simple Times (featured column)
by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Several years ago, a young couple from our local church was pondering what to do about the various people they saw on street corners around town asking for food or money.
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This couple didn't want to just hand out money.  They weren't sure cash was going to be used in what they considered an appropriate manner, but they also didn't want to ignore sincere pleas for help from those truly in need.

After thinking and praying about it, this couple came up with a simple idea that not only met the immediate needs of the person on the street corner, but also met the desire of the couple to provide help in a practical way without feeling someone might be taking advantage of their kind hearts.

Their solution?  A great little idea they dubbed "Friendship Bags."  They made up several small paper lunch bags of inexpensive and helpful items (easy-open cans of food, juice, change for a phone call, etc.) to carry with them in their car for those moments when someone waved a "Homeless ... need money for food" sign next to their car window.

Eventually word got around to the leadership of our church about this couple's "Friendship Bags"... and a new church ministry was born.  Now every month, a small group of dedicated volunteers get together and make up a batch of (about fifty) Friendship Bags which are then brought to the church and left in the foyer for anyone to take who'd like to keep a bag or two in their car for giving out as they're driving around town.

Each of the church's Friendship Bags contain:

-a pop-top can of fruit, or fruit cocktail
-a pop-top can of vienna sausage
-a small can of juice
-a package of cheese and crackers, or peanut butter and crackers
-a napkin and plastic fork
-a moist towelette
-one all-day bus pass
-change for a local phone call
-a coupon for a free shower at the local YMCA
-a card with community contact phone numbers (crisis clinic, food bank, Salvation Army, etc.)
-a small tract and note from the church inviting them to stop by or call if they need any further assistance.

If you've been puzzled about finding an appropriate response to the needy on our streets, perhaps making up a few Friendship Bags of your own might provide an answer.  It makes a great family project, too.

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