The Good Stuff

Most of the time, hygiene kits are one of those things that we make on the fly because we’ve accumulated enough small items to put them together. But last year, as I toyed with the concept of putting different items in a bag and distributing it, I ran across a group called 3bagsin2days. This is their specialty! After spending some time with these girls in Arkansas, I fell in love with the idea. But before we begin…

An Important Note: When I would give my bags away, I would find that people told me they “only needed the socks,” or they “only need the toothpaste”. So I’ve learned that as wise stewards of the items that are purchased or collected for distribution, it’s important to ask everybody what they need. Too often we get into this assumptive routine of ”here, you need this,” or “here, I want to give this to you” that robs people of the dignity of knowing what is best for themselves. (Not only that, but this is hygiene stuff. It can be kind of insulting.) So I ask…

And asking has never slowed me down! We’ve given away more than 500 kits so far this year and 30 of them just last night. Sometimes it’s fun to just arrive with the contents, give everyone a bag, and then talk with them about what they need.

With this in mind, these are the types of things that we might put in a kit:

  • Socks (white crew)
  • New Underwear (all sizes, mens/womens)
  • Bottle of Water w/ flavor packet
  • Bar of Soap w/ Washcloth
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Lotion
  • Travel Size Wet Wipes
  • Tissues
  • Nail file/clippers
  • Hair Comb
  • Razors (mens/womens, double blade)
  • Shaving Cream
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • Travel Size Listerine Mouth Wash
  • Deodorant (mens/womens)
  • Chap-Stick
  • Hair Ties (womens kits)
  • Tampons & Pads (womens kits)
  • Travel Size shampoo/conditioner
  • Hand Warmers/Foot Warmers/Gloves (winter)
  • Sun Screen  (summer)
  • Bug Spray
  • Rain Poncho
  • Matches
  • Note Pad & Pen (write a note that says LOVE all over it)
  • Sharpie Marker
  • Stamped Postcard or Envelope
  • Cough Drops
  • Q Tips
  • First Aide Kit/Band-aides
  • Sewing Kit
  • Travel Size Laundry Detergent
  • Trial Size Foot Powder
  • Trial Size Motrin or Aspirin
  • Small Roll of Duct Tape/zip ties
  • Industrial Garbage Bag (folded up really small)
  • Super Glue (for the things you can’t think of)

Of course, all of this will depend on your budget or your supply of donations. We’ve never given away all of this stuff at once, we just get together whatever we can (usually 10-12 items for each kit) and Spread the Love. If nothing else, start with socks and a bottle of water. Find your best deals! Hit up the local dollar stores, flea markets, ask around (alot of people collect old hotel toiletries) or look online for bulk wholesalers. We’ve found travel toothpaste for 29 cents each, shampoo for 17 cents, and deoderant for 58 cents!! Exercise your bargain shopper skills…

An additional idea is to make Snack Packs or food kits and distribute them along with a bottle of water. Many community services only provide one meal, and having packaged food (although not very healthy) is critical to maintaining energy. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cup of Ramen Noodles (don’t forget a plastic fork and a napkin!)
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Packets of Tuna
  • Granola Bars (or cereal or protein bars)
  • Hot Chocolate/drink mixes
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Snack Size chips
  • Fruit Cups
  • Snack Size Trail Mix
  • Dried Fruit
  • Cookies
  • Peppermints/Candy Bars
  • Fresh Fruit (like a banana, an apple or a tangerine)

Our friends at 3bagsin2days have a great system because they make both a hygiene kit and a snack pack, and put them together in a recyclable bag from Walmart. Which brings me to…

Another Important Note: The bag matters! How am I supposed to carry a ziplock? We can’t always spend the money on those reusable fabric bags, but just keeping some plastic shopping bags handy makes a huge difference. Even if you parcel everything up in a ziplock, put it inside another bag with handles. It’s just more convenient, and it might ensure that every item in your bag gets used.

Finally, the most important element to every single kit, snack pack or bag that you give away:

  • LOVE

This shows up in our attitude when we put the bag together and when we give it away. Smile, have a conversation, shake hands, hug, have a moment with a stranger. Your time is your most valuable resource. 1 Corinthians 13:3 says that if we give it all away without love, it’s worthless. So do it wholeheartedly and the possibilities for change are limitless.

If you have any questions about this stuff, feel free to leave a comment below, or check out these great organizations who specialize in making these kits and giving them away with love.

http://3bagsin2days.org/

http://lovebags.org/lovebags/index.html

http://homelessbagproject.org/

http://www.dosomething.org/project/caring-bags-homeless

A few of my twitter buddies have contributed to this list and I would like to thank them for thinking of what I hadn’t thought of! You can click on each one to see their website or their twitter page:

@LoriTruth. @DoingitHomeless. @StaffaRoadTrip. @Slowdeck. @PastorCJ3. @DareDiva.  

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