Every blessing counts

Eighth+graders+Emily+Watson+%28right%29+and+Christina+Damato+%28left%29+assemble+blessing+bags.
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Every blessing counts

Eighth graders Emily Watson (right) and Christina Damato (left) assemble blessing bags.

Eighth graders Emily Watson (right) and Christina Damato (left) assemble blessing bags.

courtesy of Braden Weinel

Eighth graders Emily Watson (right) and Christina Damato (left) assemble blessing bags.

courtesy of Braden Weinel

courtesy of Braden Weinel

Eighth graders Emily Watson (right) and Christina Damato (left) assemble blessing bags.

by Bridget Murphy and Braden Weinel

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Braden Weinel was stopped by a red light in Frederick, Maryland. His dad was driving, and he was late for soccer practice. The light was about to turn green. He looked out to the left and saw a man sitting on the guard rail. He had nothing, and, although some say that you shouldn’t give to homeless people because they might not really be homeless, Weinel knew what he was doing. He grabbed a bag out of the backseat of the car, went to the man and handed it to him.

“Thank you so much. God bless you. Thank you,” he said.

Weinel said, “You’re welcome,” and “God bless you, too.”

The bag Weinel gave away that day is called a “Blessing Bag.” They are filled with items like food, drinks, socks, soap, Chapstick, and other little necessities. Each bag comes with information about the church Weinel attends, so that if the people need extra help, they know where they can go.

It feels great to know that blessing bags can help others in so many ways. Over 15,000 people in Frederick County live below the poverty level, which is approximately 6% of the local population, and there are also over 340 people that are frequent to local homeless shelters.

At Calvary United Methodist Church in Mt. Airy, the youth group helps to fill blessing bags. Members of the church can take a bag after services. The church youth group fills the blessing bags through donations from church members.

Blessing bags are not unique Calvary United, nor do they have to be made by a religious organization.

The blessings bag program at Calvary United was started by church member, Karen McCann. McCann said, “It gives people a way to give back to the community, and also gives a way to share God’s love through something tangible.”

courtesy of Braden Weinel
Members spread awareness for Blessing Bags.

She started these blessings bags in memory of her son, Ryan Joseph McCann, who passed away on November 4, 2011  from a car crash. He was a member of the Class of 2009 and was in his junior year of studying biology at the University of Maryland.

photo by Braden Weinel
Karen McCann created this program in memory of her son, Ryan McCann.

She came up with the idea of blessing bags because she works in an area with many homeless people, the city of Baltimore. Every day on the way to work and on the way back, she sees many homeless people, so she did something about it.

“The youth groups at church showed interest in helping homeless people. I saw a post on Facebook about blessing bags. People keep them in their cars and fill them with personal items like food, soaps and Chapsticks. I thought it would be a great idea to bring it into the youth group at church,” said McCann.

Like the people in that Facebook post, Bridget Murphy and her mother Jennifer Murphy, keep blessing bags in their cars year-round. The bags they assemble at home include items such as McDonald’s gift cards, hats, gloves, tissues, a toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, and more.

The little things in life often go unnoticed by many. While the daily chore of brushing your teeth or shaving may seem like a hassle at times, it can make a huge impact on a person’s self esteem. Looking fresh and clean not only is important for keeping your health in good shape but also can determine whether or not you get hired for a job.

At Murphy’s church, St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, they have been tackling the issue of hunger in the community with the help of other churches. The program is called the Libertytown Food Backpack Ministry.

courtesy of Deacon Jerry Jennings
Food donations pile up at St. Peter’s.

Volunteers bring in canned foods to be packed into backpacks and delivered to schools. They are distributed to students who are offered free and reduced-meals during the school week, in order for them to have food on the weekends or on a holiday or snow day As many as 43% of students in Maryland rely on free and reduced meals.

 The backpacks are not only delivered to students in Libertytown,  but also to students at LHS. The members of the United Methodist Church make the deliveries to each school.

The program has been going strong since 2014, and in that first year, the church distributed 1,000 backpacks to students in need. Around 600 backpacks were distributed last year.

People in our community and throughout America are struggling, and we can help.

Here are three easy ways you can get involved:

  1. Drop off donations at Calvary United Methodist Church  for the “Blessing Bag” program at 403 S Main St. Mt Airy, MD 21771. Drop off canned foods or other donations for the “Blessings in a backpack” program at St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church at 9190 Church St. Union Bridge, MD 21791.
  2. Make monetary donations in order for the members of either church to purchase items for the “Blessing Bags” and/or “Blessings in a backpack.” (Checks are accepted, written to The Calvary United Methodist Church Youth Group and designate that it is for the blessing bag program.)
  3. Make your own care package for the homeless, and keep a bag in your car at all times.

It is important to always be ready to help the needy no matter where we go. We can and will make an impact on our community and change someone’s life.

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