One of the best parts of my job at WorkerAnts.com is volunteering at various charities. I love finding new organizations and talking with people who are helping others. I enjoy this whether I am around my home town or traveling. Indeed, whether I am going out of state for a work conference or just traveling to visit friends, spending time volunteering at a local charity makes me feel connected to a community in a way nothing else does.
Earlier this fall while in Eugene, Oregon for a friend's wedding, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a non-profit organization called Bags of Love. They are based on the simple concept of putting together bags of supplies for kids in need. The bags are given for a multitude of reasons such as disaster, homelessness and neglect, and provide for many basic needs, such as toiletries or school supplies. The positive effect that each bag has on people's lives is profound. Not just on the lives of the children who receive one, but also on the lives of those who volunteer.
The day I volunteered at the Bags of Love warehouse I spent my time packing bags with school supplies. What I saw was an organization that clearly demonstrates that helping others doesn't have to be complex. In finding a need and meeting it this organization proves that small acts of kindness can make large changes and that taking action to show love and care to others may not be easy, but it can be simple.
The entire time I was working I could not help but think what a difference having rulers, highlighters, pens and calculators, would make for children who've lost their homes due to a tragedy, are in foster care or whose families just don't have the money to afford these basic supplies. By packing these bags children could have what they needed to study and succeed.
The day after I volunteered, I returned to the Bags of Love warehouse in the hopes of having the opportunity to speak with one of their directors or marketing leads. When I arrived, Di Barrong, the founder of Bags of Love was gracious enough to meet with me for a bit and talk about her organization. I learned that she had started Bags of Love in honor of her nephew, Jeffery A. Barrong who had passed away as a young man, but during his life had dedicated much of his time to helping homeless children. She knew from her years working in Intake Services with assistant district attorneys at Lane Country Juvenile Court and her later work at a home for foster boys that the children usually came into the system with nothing or next to nothing. She felt that there "must be a way to fill the gap" between services and material necessities. She began the organization out of her home by putting together bags with a quilt and a stuffed toy for each child. Her initial small acts of kindness have morphed into a charitable organization that has distributed over 5,000 bags to local children since 2008. Her new goal is to provide 300 bags per month.
What I thought was most amazing about this organization was that the entire bustling office and warehouse was full of volunteers, and only volunteers. There is no paid staff at Bags of Love. This struck a chord with me, since one of the reasons I founded WorkerAnts.com was to celebrate and recognize the people that are quietly changing the world by their daily acts of kindness. Bags of Love is a wonderful example of the power each one of us has to help others and to make people's lives better. We hear about people committing atrocities all the time, what we need to hear more about is people like the volunteers at Bags of Love and Di Barrong, who saw a way to help, acted on it and has provided a way for others to help as well. This holiday season, as we look around the world and see all the pain on the news, take the time to share this story and other stories you know of people doing good in the world. Let us celebrate hope.
If you are looking for ways to help out as well, check out these organizations on WorkerAnts.com that, similar to Bags of Love, were started by one person who saw a need: Help a Mother Out, Shoes that Fit, or Little Dresses for Africa. There are also thousands of other organizations that meet real needs for people, so take time and search through our global database to find one you like then donate a coat, give school supplies, or diapers, or shoes to an organization that can get them in the hands of someone who really needs a little hope this season.