For well over 5 years, Tony and I have been serving the Gilroy Compassion Center. The center is a day facility for the homeless. Their mission is to provide services for homeless residents of South Santa Clara County, CA in a manner that is safe, respectful, responsible, and community-based.
They operate a One-Stop center for the homeless that provides basic needs services, such as bathrooms, clean clothes, personal care items, telephone and message center, and daytime respite from the streets, in a warm and welcoming environment. The goal is to develop year-round shelter with opportunities for education and employment training, and partnerships among service providers with linkages to medical care, mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, education, and job training.
One of the programs at the center that we participate in is the Manna Bag Project. Every Friday morning from 8:30a-9:00 a team of people make the bags. The bags consist of a bottle of water, a fruit snack, a protein item, a couple pieces of candy and a “medical kit”. The medical kit has a band aid, cotton swab, teeth flosser and a cough drop. We make about 125-150 bags a week. When clients check out of the center each day, they can take a manna bag with them. The clients often don’t know where their next meal will be. The manna bag is there to fill the gap between meals.
This month we had a new volunteer, Paige DeRosa. Paige is my God-daughter and is 10 years old, soon to be 11. She just promoted out of elementary school and will start middle school later this year. She is excited to be on summer break and sleeping in. Last week she called me and asked if she could help with making the manna bags. I love her initiative! I didn’t call her and ask her to give up sleeping in on a Friday morning. She called me. This past Friday, I picked her up at 8:15 and we left for the Compassion Center. We talked about the purpose of the bags and what they mean to the clients.
When we arrived, I introduced her to that week’s manna bag crew. I also introduced her to some of the clients. She greeted everyone with a confident hand shake. We got started with the “training” on making the bags. It didn’t take long before she was making two at a time. She was engaging with conversation and everyone loved her. Her fresh enthusiasm helped renew every one’s spirit and reminded us why we do what we do. She was also part of making bag 34,000!
When we were done and driving home, she said to me, “I think even more important than the food that is in the bags, is the love that went into making them.” Oh my gosh, I love her heart! We talked about what if she started a manna bag project at her middle school next year. Maybe gathering kids once a month to do something for their community. Paige is a leader! Learning at a young age, how to give back, how to give up some of your precious time for something bigger than yourself gives you a step up in learning how to be a part of your community, region and even the world. I believe Paige will do great things in her life. Not only whatever her career will be but for others too.
If you have read this far, I encourage you to share your passion with the next generation. Inspiring the next generation to step up and out is what will move us forward.
For Paige, I love you with all my heart. I believe you can change the world with your contagious enthusiasm and determined spirit.