Service Project: Making and delivering milk and cookies to homeless people along with dog treats and water for their dogs.
Prep time: minimal (just make sure you've got the ingredients on hand)
Cost: $2 (shelf-stable milk is the most expensive part)
Duration: 1 hour
Lesson(s) learned: We all can do something about homelessness
How we did it:
We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Ronald Reagan
This idea keeps going through my mind as I think about homelessness. We’ve talked about it here before and even offered book suggestions for introducing the topic to your kids. It’s just so apparent in Eugene with someone begging at the side of the road at every turn and bike trailers on the paths filled not with a smiling child but with a person’s total belongings. There are lots of organizations locally trying to help, and doing a lot of good. Even still, homelessness persists. What can children do to help?
Milk and cookies. It’s the ultimate comfort snack. No one can resist freshly baked cookies and a glass of refreshing milk. But, the idea of “homemade” cookies is out of reach for someone that doesn’t have a home. No oven to bake those sweet delights and no fridge to keep that milk cold. No one NEEDS milk and cookies but everyone will enjoy them. I can’t single-handedly stop homelessness but I can hand out some yummy milk and cookies.
Homeless dogs. I’ve got my own opinions of them but today I just want to help. If I’m going to be giving a special treat to their masters, I should think that they deserve something yummy too. Along with milk and cookies for the humans, we’ll be handing out dog treats and bottled water for the dogs. All packaged in a large resealable bag that can be kept long after those cookies are gone to keep things dry in our wet Pacific Northwest weather.
I wanted young kids to really be able to make the dog treats with as little assistance as necessary. My daughter loves to sneak a lick of dough, especially when the bowl is right in front of her, so I chose this egg-free recipe from RadioFence. I adapted it to fit in a small bowl so each child could mix up and roll out their own dog treats.
This worked out wonderfully. We had 2 girls over to make the treats with my daughter and the three of them loved having their own bowl to mix up and their own dough to roll out.
Here’s what each child mixed together:
⅓ of a banana, mashed
2 TB coconut flour
1 TB ground flax seed
3 TB chunky peanut butter
2 TB milk
First we mashed the banana. That was the hardest part for the toddlers and the preschooler wouldn’t even try so I did most of the mashing. The rest of the ingredients were added one at a time. I measured for the toddlers and they dumped it in and then stirred. The preschooler could measure, pour, and stir all by herself.
Once the dough had come together, I helped them get it into a ball and put it between 2 sheets of waxed paper. At this point the preschooler wasn’t interested in helping anymore so she requested that I cut her dog treats into hearts and then she scampered off to play with toys. The toddlers, though, had so much fun patting out the dough. Maybe a little too much fun! We must have patted and re-patted out that dough a dozen times, and they loved it every time.
Then they chose their cookie cutters and cut out shapes which I transferred to a cookie sheet. There was a fair amount of taste-testing going on so I’m glad they were egg-free. I figure if it passed the toddlers’ taste tests then a dog would surely approve.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, turning them after about 10 minutes so that they crisp evenly.
The next day my daughter and I made peanut butter cookies. We love baking together so this was a joy! That adventure can best be summed up with this photo. Don't worry; there were any eggs in that dough either and that spatula didn't go back into the dough after being licked!
Each large resealable bag contained a baggie of cookies, a baggie of dog treats, a bottle of water, and a shelf-safe container of milk.
For the next few days, I kept 1-2 in the car and re-stocked as needed. The first 2 we handed out to a large group of homeless people and their 2 dogs panhandling at the freeway off-ramp just down the street from our house. The looks on their faces was priceless as they first hesitantly accepted the oddly-shaped donation and then looked closer to realize the yumminess inside. I suspect they’ve never been given homemade cookies and drinks for both them and their dogs before!
What I loved about this project is that it made us seek out homeless people. Instead of sitting awkwardly at an intersection, wondering if I had anything to give the person begging right outside my car window, I sought out encounters and was genuinely excited for them. It was a great chance for conversations with my daughter about homelessness and everything that goes along with it. Milk and cookies for the win!