Simple Service: Helping the Homeless


My children and I love serving other people!  We find it gratifying to help someone else in need.

Sometimes we can think out of the box on who to help and how best to serve them.  We were trying to do some out of the box thinking this past month.

After several days of discussions, we decided we wanted to help out a homeless shelter.  We haven’t worked with this shelter in the past, so we weren’t quite sure what their needs were.

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This service project began with my kids and I brainstorming how we could help the people at the homeless shelter; we weren’t quite sure what to do.  We reflected on our most personal experience from two summers ago, with a couple who was homeless.

We met this couple during a week long tennis camp for kids.  The camp began at 8:00 a.m., to help beat the heat of the smoldering summer.  

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Each morning, we found this couple sitting with all of their personal items under the pavillion beside the tennis courts. It didn’t take my kids long to ask me lots of questions about their situation and how they could help improve their lives.  

We decided the best way was to raid our personal stash of hand sanitizer, soap, and baby wipes at home the first night.  After our best packaging and bagging job, we privately handed them their new supplies as we left on the second morning of camp.

Both of my kids commented on how thin and frail the woman was on our drive home, so we made a detour to our local produce stand on the way home.  We finished out the week by packing the couple fresh fruit in reusable plastic containers, plastic forks, and bottled water each morning.  

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It was crazy hot that year!  We knew the fruit and water would help keep them hydrated.

Seeing firsthand how people who are homeless live out in the open helped my kids realize how blessed they were to have a house to go home to every day.  It also helped them think about what a homeless person would need in the spring in the Midwest.

Umbrellas!  We can endure lots of thunderstorms in the spring over here!

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With that in mind, I called the shelters manager the next day.  I told her our plan. We wanted to donate umbrellas! She was very grateful for the suggested donation of umbrellas.  However, she said rain ponchos would actually be more helpful and easier to handle.  Hmmm. We didn’t think of that one!

The manager also requested earbuds.  She said many people who are homeless still have a cell phone.  This was new information to me! With those cell phones, they are not allowed to have loud conversations or listen to music in the commons area at the shelter.  

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Earbuds are a requirement and cannot be shared.  She said the ones sold at The Dollar Tree are perfect.

My kids and I picked a day when we would be able to drop off our donation and speak with the manager.  Visitors to the facility are only allowed during a designated block of time during the day.

After a scheduled appointment, we headed over to The Dollar Tree.  We couldn’t find a single rain poncho! I asked for help. The employee told me a man came in the day before and purchased ALL of the rain ponchos!  About 50 of them!! We then decided to grab as many earbuds for phones the store had on the shelf.  Our next stop would be another local Dollar Tree. Our search for rain ponchos was not over!

I called the homeless shelter manager in the parking lot to explain the dilemma.  I needed more ideas just in case the rain ponchos were also gone from the other store. She said flashlights and batteries were also in high demand during the spring.  Why? Storms sometimes cause power outages. Our area had just experienced a major power outage the week before and the clients were literally in the dark for hours!  They didn’t have enough personal flashlights to share.

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Thankfully, the other Dollar Tree store had plenty of earbuds, flashlights, and batteries.  We were bummed because this store only had five rain ponchos in stock!!  Word to the wise...if you see a cheap rain poncho, grab it! :)  We bought all of them.

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My kids were delighted to see the building when we finally pulled up.  They couldn’t wait to hand over the items! After we were buzzed in by the kind front desk worker, we were able to meet the manager.  I appreciated her excitement about the items my kids handed her.

They went through the bags and explained the problems we had finding the rain ponchos.  They told her which earbuds were their favorites in the bag.

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Before we left, I explained that my kids wanted to make something to give to the shelter, but we couldn’t come up with any good ideas.  

The manager told us pillow cases were always in need, as well as cute pillows for kids.  Bingo! We could totally sew pillow cases! I am looking forward to teaching both of my kids a basic skill this summer.  Sewing pillow cases!

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Both of my kids are looking forward to helping kids in need by making something useful and helpful. If you have a tried and true pillow case pattern, please share with me!  I would love to save some time! :)

about the author


Kale is a blogger, mother, wife, teacher, friend, and child of the one true King.  She also has a soft spot for teaching children about community service. Kale married her exact opposite, Steak.  They are living the dream in the Midwest with their two wonderful children. The family is constantly entertained by their hilarious mutt. is where you can find her writing, guiding, organizing, budgeting, eating plants, and cleaning up after the mutt.

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