This is an exciting day at the Ruth Lilly Women & Children’s Center, a shelter that is at the heart of The Salvation Army’s Block of Hope in downtown Indianapolis. Project Blessing Bags kicks off today, with the goal to connect local groups, companies and individuals with the children who come to our shelter with little more than the clothes on their backs.

These kids are already facing hardships like homelessness and hunger, their mothers fleeing domestic violence or desperate for a warm place for their children to sleep. Blessing Bags are designed to lessen the trauma experienced by the children by offering them personal items of comfort to help with a very difficult transition.

002aBlessing Bags are filled with age-appropriate items like snuggly stuffed animals, cozy blankets, new books, personal care products and lots of love. That love comes from the very special people who carefully assemble each Blessing Bag, like Allison Clark and her team from Thrivent Financial, which helped to kick off this new program by sponsoring the first 24 bags.

“It was pretty fun team building for us, too,” Allison explained during a recent interview on Red Shield Radio. “Just to be able to talk about the little children who might be receiving them, pray for them, as we’re tying these fleece blankets.” Allison and her colleague, Mary Beth Trotter, were able to meet some of the children in person when they followed up their Blessing Bag event with a Tour of Hope, which included a visit to the shelter.

“For me it was an eye-opening experience, because I had no idea about the services that you do offer to children and families, and the depth of the need,” Mary Beth explained. “Your staff was just so welcoming, so caring, and so concerned about the mothers and the children who come through that center. It really touched my heart.”

Thrivent 25aHere’s how Project Blessing Bag works:

Start by visiting the Blessing Bags page on our website and learning more about the process. Once you’ve decided how many bags your organization or company would like to purchase and fill, you simply connect with Pam Fleck, director of the Ruth Lilly Women & Children’s Center, and arrange to pick up your empty Blessing Bags. The $2/bag cost prevents our shelter from incurring costs and lets each child take their new bag with them when they eventually leave the shelter.

Next your team heads out with shopping lists in search of those special items that will welcome our youngest guests with comfort and a personal touch. From diapers and teething rings for babies to drawing pads and devotionals for teens, each bag is a little different and designed to start their stay at the shelter with a smile.

The goal of Project Blessing Bags is to fill enough totes to serve the 600-plus kids who live in the shelter throughout the year. Whether you’re filling a single bag or 50, every donor who steps forward to help is making a real difference in the lives of children whose world has been turned upside-down.

(Interested in putting together a team for Project Blessing Bags? Just visit our Blessing Bags page to download and share an info sheets and shopping list.)