Care Bags

Care Bags

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Care Bags

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

~Kahlil Gibran

Annie loves going to the mall with her mom and bringing home big boxes full of teddy bears, games, coloring books and crayons. But she is no spoiled child. On the contrary, the fourteen-year-old is one of the most generous, kind-hearted kids you’ll ever hope to meet.

Annie’s mom, Cathy, is a child-abuse prevention educator. Every day she talked to schoolchildren, teaching them how to protect themselves and report abuse. At a conference she attended, a social worker asked Cathy and other adults at the meeting to save tiny shampoos and soaps whenever they stayed in hotels.

“Usually children who need emergency shelter come with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Cathy told her daughter that night. Annie knew she wanted to help somehow.

Later, lying on her bed surrounded by her collection of Beanie Babies, books and toys, Annie thought about how safe and loved she felt. And then she had an inspiration.

“I’ll collect shampoos and soaps because the kids need them,” she told her mom, “but I’ll also collect toys and games and other fun stuff to make them feel happy, too.”

Annie contacted Children’s Services, which loved her idea. She and her mom composed a letter describing her idea, and she hand-delivered the letter to local merchants.

Many businesses were happy to help. They gave Annie gift cards to buy toys, stuffed animals and books. Area pharmacies, grocery stores, hotels and dentists donated toothpaste, shampoo, packets of tissue and other toiletry items. Women’s groups and schools volunteered to sew beautiful fabric drawstring and handled bags. Annie filled each bag with new items she had collected and named them “Care Bags.”

She pinned this poem to the outside of each bag:

This little bag was made especially for you,

To say I think you’re special, and I care about you, too.

Inside you’ll find a bunch of things like toothpaste, soap or a toy,

I collected all this stuff for you to fill your heart with joy.

I hope this makes you happy, today and every day,

And remember someone loves you in a very special way.

After only a few weeks, Annie delivered thirty Care Bags, which were distributed to needy foster children and crisis-care kids throughout the city. Annie was told the children loved the care bags, and they carried them everywhere. One little boy even slept with his.

As word of Annie’s Care Bags spread, other merchants began donating diapers, pacifiers, night-lights and gift certificates. Complete strangers, Girl Scout troops, 4-H clubs, schools and church groups from all over the United States began sending boxes of stuffed animals, receiving blankets, school supplies, journals and decks of playing cards. The town even gave her space in a local senior center, where donations are stored and volunteers help Annie fill the bags. A computer expert helped Annie create a Web site: www.carebags4kids.org, which has encouraged many others to get involved.

Over the past three years, Annie has assembled over four thousand Care Bags. Annie has never met any of the Care Bag recipients, but she knows she’s making a real difference.

“It was so nice to receive something when everything was falling apart,” one little girl wrote to thank Annie. “It’s nice to know someone really cares.”

~Heather Black

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