Some close family friends of ours
volunteer every week at our local resource center for the homeless. When I started looking for ways to get the boys involved in holiday giving, I
thought maybe we could bring cookies one night while they were volunteering, to
share with the people who use the center. A couple of weeks later I was reading
Parent & Child magazine and came
across the idea to make care packages for the homeless. I loved the idea of doing something besides sharing sweets, as much as
they might be enjoyed, so we tacked care packages onto our plan.
Over the weekend we baked holiday cookies and prepared care
packages. This is definitely a
project that even young kids can get involved in! You can read more about our experience at the shelter here. This post is more of a how-to for making care packages with kids. You’ll also find the yummy recipe for homemade granola bars that we included in our care packages.
1. Call your local shelter to find out 1) if it is okay to drop off
care packages at the shelter, and 2) what items are needed most. Another idea is to make care packages to keep in the car, so that if your family encounters a homeless person you can give
him or her one of the packages. I love this idea (credit goes to I Am Not The Babysitter) and think we’ll be doing this at some point in the new year.
2. Pick up supplies for your care packages. Do a quick web search and you’ll find great sites with ideas for what to include in care packages
for the homeless. Ours
- a homemade card
- a pair
- bottled water
- a homemade granola bar
- a little
“health pack” that included throat lozenges,
band-aids, lip balm, and, for the women, tampons
Everything went into gallon-sized plastic bags marked “man” or
“woman” depending on the contents. I was initially going to use paper
bags decorated by the boys, but then realized they may not hold up well
and zipper-top plastic bags are more durable.
the sweetened condensed milk (recipe at the end of the post). The recipe is kid-friendly and Bee was my most excellent my sous-chef. He loved dumping and mixing the ingredients. Zip wouldn’t touch
the bars since they didn’t contain chocolate chips (is this what my child has come
to expect from granola bars?!), but the rest of us thought they were delicious. We put the bars in snack-size ziplocs and used holiday gift labels. I wrote “fruit & nut,” just in case someone has a food allergy, and added the date since they are perishable.
4. Have the kids help make cards. We thought including homemade cards would add a personal touch. Zip drew cards for each and every care package –
twelve in all. He took such care making each one. He was dressed like a cowboy while he did it….because that’s how my boy rolls on a Sunday afternoon! Zip asked me to write something on the front of the card, per his instructions. Inside the cards I wrote a general wish for peace, hope, and happiness in the new year. This was a great opportunity to talk about the fact he took the time to make individual cards could really brighten someone’s day.
5. Assemble your packages. Both boys helped put together the care packages. I wasn’t sure how Bee
would do, not even being three yet, but we made a little assembly line and he
stepped right up. It was so darn sweet to watch him count out throat lozenges
and to see how seriously he took his job. While we worked, I explained to the boys why we were making the care packages and how they could be helpful to the people receiving them.
That’s it! We made 12 care packages and they were ready for delivery! I love that the boys are old enough now to get involved and that we can start laying a foundation with them for showing compassion and caring outside of their immediate circle.
A care-package-party would also make a great get-together with other parents and kids. Each family could be in charge of bringing a certain item
for the care packages. The kids could make cards and assemble the
packages together. I think it would be a lot of fun! Maybe we’ll give it
a try over the summer.
Fruit & Nut Granola Bars
Adapted from allrecipes.com
- 1 1/2 c. quick cooking oats
- 1 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 c. hulled pumpkin seeds
- 1 1/2 c. chopped, mixed nuts (we used slivered almonds, walnuts, and pecans)
- 1 c. dried fruit, diced (we used an apple-cherry mix)
- 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1 T honey (optional)
- 1/2 T flax seed (optional)
- 1/2 T wheat germ (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 pan with greased parchment paper. Allow extra paper so it sticks out at the ends.
- Mix the oats, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and fruit in a large mixing bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and stir. Finally, mix in the cinnamon, vanilla, honey, flax seed, and wheat germ.
- Press into the pan, pressing it into the corners and to the sides of the pan so it is distributed evenly.
- Bake until the edges are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (Shorter time for chewier bars, longer for crispier. I think we did about 23 minutes.)
- Allow bars to cool and then lift from the pan. Cut with a sharp knife.