Project For Bag Lady Leads To Filled Sacks For Homeless

January 08, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

ELDERSBURG — A simple wish to help a homeless woman has blossomed into a year-round giving project at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.

"At a Bible study meeting last June, one of the women said she often saw a bag lady with 10 or 15 plastic bags with all her worldly goods in them," said Carol Deal, the congregation's social minister.

"She said she'd like to give the woman a fabric bag, but didn't know how to approach her."

That offhand remark grew into a project to provide not only fabric bags, but clothing and food for the woman and other homeless people.

Deal contacted Joanne Neal and Lisa Shrodel -- home economics teachers at Liberty High and Sykesville Middle-- and encouraged them to have students make shopping bag-sized fabric totes as a class project.

Names and sizes of members from 38 needy families were gathered from Shelia Matthews at the Baltimore YWCAshelter and Carl and Betsy Yount of the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen at the Westminster Church of the Brethren.

After distributing the bags to members and community organizations to fill, the project took on a life of its own.

Clothing, food, travel games and three stamped Christmas cards were among the items placed in each bundle. Dr. Robert Scott, a county orthodontist, donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for each family member, while the owners of Pap Pap's restaurant donated a Bible for each tote.

"There was only one fabric bag toeach family," said Deal. "But people were extremely generous. They attached two or three bags of things to each of the fabric bags."

The participants also they contacted family members to determine special needs.

Tiger Cubs and members of the Practical Parenting group in Sykesville volunteered to serve at the soup kitchen and socialize with the needy families.

Three groups -- church member Susan Fleming's family, the Practical Parents and Brownie Troop 705 -- donated Christmas dinners to their families.

Church members went to Baltimore to hand out gifts and homemade cookies.

"It was really an educational mission," said Deal. "We had never been to a shelter before, and we can't tell others about it unless we've experienced it ourselves."

Participants in both programs were surprised at Holy Spirit's generosity.

"I was so overwhelmed by it," said Matthews. "They called and wanted to do something for Christmas, and I expected one present per child and maybe something for their parents.

"I could not believe the church had put that kind of love and work into the project. They even called to make sure the gifts were suitable for the children."

It was at the Baltimore YWCA that the members of Holy Spirit stumbled upon their next project, Deal said.

While waiting to celebrate Christmas at the family shelter, the members of Holy Spirit visited My Sister's Place, a privately owned and operated shelter.

"It was purely by accident that we found it," she said. "We were at the YWCA about an hour early for their Christmas party, and rather than hang around we asked if there was a shelter nearby."

The daytimeshelter on Mulberry Street provides a warm place for women to rest and have a cup of coffee, Deal said.

In anticipation of Valentine'sDay, the Holy Spirit congregation has begun planning how to help theless fortunate.

Members are now collecting old coats, warm clothing and "pocket foods" -- instant meals and other edibles the homelesscan carry with them -- to be given to the visitors of the private agency in Baltimore.

But for Deal and other members of the congregation, how the project grew is as important than the work they did.

"The success is not so much the number of people helped, but the number of people involved," Deal said. "It doesn't take any real talent, just concern and interest.

"The project is so big now that it willjust go on and on."

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