“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
~ Steve Maraboli
Even the smallest of kind gestures can make a difference in someone’s life. When beginning the Heart to Hope Bag project, Heart to Heart with Art sought a low cost/high yield service project that was easy for children to help with and meet the unrecognized needs of others. We found a niche with filling Heart to Hope Bags with items based on the needs of different disadvantaged groups we encountered. We also sought opportunities to partner with other nonprofits and meet needs for their clients. We first began filling clear quart-size bags with donated hygiene items, art supplies, and toys depending on the organization’s demographic and specific needs. We ended up finding a niche that was tangible and that we loved to fill!. Our work became a creative challenge to pack as much as we could in each bag until each burst with love and aid.
Over the years, through our partnerships, we have joyfully filled and gifted over 1,000 Heart to Hope Bags. We have also used the bag packing process as a teaching tool to show American children about other children in need and to emphasize the importance of giving back. The children also explored geography and learned specific needs based on the work of each partnered nonprofit. We have been inspired to see the children light up as they chose items to pack themselves and wrote personal notes or drew pictures for the special children in need.
We have provided packed bags to local nonprofits focusing on: domestic violence, homeless outreach, families with sick children, and international aid organizations medically serving families and orphanages in Cambodia, the Philippines and Nepal.
Heart to Heart has also packed “Fresh Start Kits” for emancipated women leaving Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon. These were larger travel bags, again donated by Travel Pick, Inc. The women receiving the bags were women who had no one to pick them up at release from jail, nowhere to go after leaving prison, and had but a new change of clothes and a bus pass. The rate of recidivism is high for this group and we wanted to reach out and let them know that they were not forgotten and loved.
As an organization, we have enjoyed throwing bag packing parties and events at our art shows. We were grateful to be of service in our own little way to other nonprofits and would like to thank all the people and companies who donated, bags, money, items to be packed, their homes for the packing parties, and most of all – their time. We also salute the children who packed bags for other children: your contributions to the world make a big impact and it was a pleasure working with you.
Some examples of Heart to Heart with Art’s Heart to Hope Bag projects:
Bags were filled with hygiene care items including: toothbrushes, toothpaste, wash cloths, razors, soap from Clean 360 (A company in Oakland, CA employing emancipated men and teaching them business skills to get them back in the job market), travel-sized shampoos and conditioners, and combs or brushes. Some bags for women had warm socks and hair bands and personalized notes. Included in the bags for children were art supplies and toys.
Heart to Hope Project – Supporting Domestic Violence Shelters and Families with Sick Children, Bay Area, California and YTP Vocational Rehabilitation Center, Tualatin, Oregon
Over the years we have partnered with and donated hundreds of bags to the following organizations in the Bay Area: Next Door Solutions To Domestic Violence, the Bill Wilson Center, There with Care, CORA and in Tualatin, Oregon, YTP Vocational Rehabilitation Center. Each of these organizations used our bags for their clients but their clients’ needs were different.
For example, Next Door Solutions and CORA needed bags for the women and their children in crisis who left their home situations in such a hurry they arrived to the shelter with only the clothes on their backs. The Heart to Hope bags were given to those families upon arrival to the shelter to help with their hygiene needs for the first few nights while they were in transition.
The bags given to the Bill Wilson Center went to their homeless youth program that specializes in caring for LQBTQ teens. For the YTP Vocational Rehabilitation Center, these bags were given to individuals who were applying for employment, but needed to improve their appearance. For example, they asked specifically for razors, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste. The bags are held by the vocational counselor and given out as needed. There with Care focuses on supporting families whose children are in the local children’s hospitals for long periods of time. We provided diaper bags and children’s bags filled with hygiene items, art supplies and toys. These bags were taken to the hospital and given to the siblings and parents of the child in care. Often these families leave their homes in a hurry because their sick child has an emergency or they live far from the hospital can’t go home, because they don’t want to leave their sick child.
Special people that we’d like to thank that have made these partnerships a success: Amanda Rasmussen, Lisa Catherwood, Dr. Donna M. Beegle (a specialist on poverty and homelessness), Bonnie Bernelle, Marisa Binder, Tricia Law and Jennifer Thurlow.
For more information about each of these organizations and who they serve, please click on each photo in the gallery below.
Heart to Hope Project – Supporting Homeless Outreach with Roots Community Health Center, Oakland, California
Roots Community Health Center has an impressive homeless outreach project called STOMP (Street Team Outreach Medical Program). They have a mobile shower and doctors that visit local homeless encampments throughout the city. Upon these visits the doctors and volunteers (trained in delivering care to the homeless demographic) pass along our Heart to Hope bags filled with hygiene items. During the winter, along with the other items, we included gloves and warm socks in each bag. We would like to thank Aquil Naji, Co-Founder and CEO of Roots Community Health Center and Y’Lonn Burris for helping guide us on what your organization needed and helping to get our Heart to Hope Bags out to those you serve.
Heart to Hope – Cambodia:
Third graders in Mountain View, California packed Heart to Hope Bags with personal notes for children, to then be taken by Dr. Enoch Choi and Jordan International Aid to Siam Reap, Cambodia and to be delivered to the Children at the BCI (Bridges Cambodia International) orphanage in Peakental Village, Battambang Province and Ton Sap Lake. First Dr. Choi delivered the bags to the BCI orphanage. He had taken his family the year before and his son had befriended a little boy staying in the orphanage. Dr. Choi’s son was able to pack a special bag and write a personal note to the little boy he had met, then Dr. Choi photographed the little boy receiving it. Dr. Choi was able to photograph all the children receiving each of their personalized Heart to Hope Bags to then show the third grade class proof of who received their bag. The bags Dr. Choi derived to the people of Ton Sap Lake were passed out to the children in line waiting for medical care. The little toys included in each of the bags kept the children occupied while they waited with their families. Thank you Dr. Choi for all your help in making this outreach project possible because it showed the American children that they could make a difference and showed them how good it felt to help others.
Heart to Hope – Philippines:
After Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, we packed bags for the children in the Philippines. Dr. Enoch Choi was leaving around Christmas with Jordan International Aid to bring medical treatment in the evacuation camps in Tacloban City. Heart to Heart with Art already had a children’s art show planned around the time Dr. Choi was leaving and added a bag packing event at the art show! The children at the art show and their families packed the bags in assembly line style. Again the children included personalized notes to the children receiving the bags. The kids were eager to help because they understood that this little gift of theirs may be the only gift that the children in the Philippines may receive for Christmas. Thank you again Dr. Choi for all the work that you do and for all the volunteers who donated their time in helping to make this event successful. We were very grateful for Barbara Leese was instrumental in organizing the marketing material, art show, volunteers and for showing the children how to pack their bags and helped them write their personal notes. We would like to thank the volunteers, families, children and to Jean and Siwei from Red Rock Coffee in Mountian View where the show was held. A special thanks to the following volunteers: Spencer Leese, Thomas Hoffmann, Ingrid Lopelli, Katie Peuvrelle, Dale Anne Bartholomew and Candace Soles, Anne Heffron, and Phillipe Matagne.
Heart to Hope – Liberia:
Heart to Heart with Art teamed up with Glad Tidings Church in San Francisco to help bring our Heart to Hope Bags filled with hygiene items, art supplies and little toys to an orphanage in Liberia. About 25 members of the Glad Tidings’ The Covenant college group, along Heart to Heart with Art’s Kristina Rudinskas and Lisa Burns, packed more than 120 Heart to Hope Bags one afternoon. The bags were packed for their mission trip to Libera leaving SF a week later. It’s amazing how $300 can fill so many donation bags with toys and trinkets that our own children might take for granted, but the children with so little will cherish these items as special treasures. Pastor Thomas Seibert and Enrique Rosales led the Glad Tidings Church members on their three-week trip to Liberia. The mission was to meet with local schools, orphanages and churches and provide much needed supplies as well as share the gospel, love and support with each other. Liberia has been devastated by the Ebola epidemic, which has affected every level of society, but the poor have been hit especially hard. “Lives were changed and people were encouraged by the love of God. Words can’t begin to describe what an amazing time we had. It was truly remarkable. Those kids were so happy to receive those gift bags, I’ll never forget their faces.” ~ Pastor Thomas Seibert
Heart to Hope – Vieques, Puerto Rico:
Heart to Hope Bags were distributed in the forgotten islands Vieques, Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria in 2018. The bags were taken by Jordan International Aid and AmeriCares who offered the medicine to the local people in need. As individuals lined up for medical attention, they were given one of our Heart to Hope Bags while they waited. Thanks again Dr. Enoch Choi for helping to make this project so successful. Also a special thanks to Devon Newman and Claire Shiffren who volunteered to pack bags;we couldn’t have packed so many bags without you.
Heart to Hope – Coffee Creek Women’s Prison, Wilsonville, Oregon:
This partnership began with one conversation with Pattie Froelich, a longtime volunteer for Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon. She knew what Heart to Heart had a Heart to Hope Bag program and asked if we could do anything for the women leaving prison who have no one to pick them up after emancipation. As an organization, it is our goal to full the unrecognized needs of other organizations and to help support them to fill them. We wanted more information and ideas of what these women needed, so Lisa Burns met with Captain Amanda Rasmussen and Chaplin Claudia Al-Amin at in the medium security women’s prison at Coffee Creek and enquired on how we can help. Unfortunately, the correctional facility doesn’t have the budget to take care of the women after they are released from prison and depend on donations to help provide for these women as soon as they pass leave through their gates. Coffee Creek only has the budget to provide a change of clothing, possibly a jacket (depending on the season) and a bus pass. Many of these women who can’t go home, head to a halfway house or shelter but they have no money to buy hygiene items, and no phone, so they have difficulty reporting to parole officers and tracking their appointments without a calendar. Although they have served their time, they are starting over with nothing. Heart to Heart with Art’s goal was to fill these bags as if they were going to our mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and daughters and to show these women that they were not forgotten and are loved. We wanted to create a “Fresh Start” care kit that shows someone cared about them and thoughtfully attempted to take care of their needs. These bags were then distributed to the women in need by those staff who knew these women had no friends or family to pick them up on the day of their release.
These Heart to Hope Bags, donated by Travel Pick, Inc. and filled and packed by Heart to Heart with Art are filled with warm cozy socks, a paper scheduling planner and pen, female hygiene items such as tampons and pads, a personal note of encouragement, a washcloth, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razors, Chapstick, and handmade soap from Clean 360. We know it’s small, but in each bag we’ve included Clean360 handmade soap made in Oakland, California by emancipated individuals through Root’s Community Health Center’s workforce development program. These men were excited to take part in our initiative to offer hope to the women being newly released from Coffee Creek, because the men from Clean 360 knew exactly how it hard life is when the inmate leave prisons and the stigmas and difficulties they face. We would like to thank some very special people for helping to make this Heart to Hope bag project such a big success: Captain Amanda Rasmussen, Chaplin Claudia Al-Amin, Pattie and Tim Froelich, Glenda Burns (superstar bag packer and helper to deliver all the bags to Coffee Creek!) Scott Burns, Bonnie and Charlie Combs and to everyone who donated their time and finances or volunteered to help us pack bags. We appreciate all of you and could not have done a project this size without you! We are so proud of the first letter we received with Travel Pick Bags to thank us for our Heart to Hope Bags.