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Making ‘Care Kits’ for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

(Courtesy of Aerrow Cruz)

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to our Channel Kindness Award winner Aerrow Cruz! Thank you for helping us build a kinder and braver world! 

When I was 15, we moved to a new city after living in the same house for the past ten years. Within months of moving to the new city, the top half of the house burned down. The house became nearly impossible to secure and was broken into several times. 

It would have been very easy to be angry that people were striking such a low blow. Instead, my mom and I took the opposite approach and tried to do something positive to take our minds off of it. It was getting cold outside and there were a lot of individuals experiencing homelessness in the area. We could sympathize with how these individuals felt out in the winter cold, so we decided to put together little ‘care kits’ and drop them off around the neighborhood when we went on walks. The kits would usually include gloves, a hat, a blanket, hand warmers, and a positive note; or some variation of similar products. 

When I saw what  Born This Way Foundation was doing with the Channel Kindness Awards, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue this project in a new community. I first heard of Born This Way Foundation through an alumnus of Circle K, who invited the club to get involved by volunteering at the booth during some of the concerts. 

Since moving to Las Vegas and starting college, I have joined a few organizations which have allowed me to give back to the community as much as I possibly can. It was through one of them, Circle K at UNLV, that I continued performing community service and taking on leadership positions and roles. When I applied and received the Channel Kindness Award for this project I asked the members of the club for help and created an opportunity to hold a service project with our whole division. We had members participating from all around Southern Nevada and California. 

(Courtesy of Aerrow Cruz)

The project consisted of creating kits, each with tie-blankets and personally-written positive notes. My fellow members of Circle K from University of Nevada – Las Vegas were able to participate by helping turn sheets of fleece into blankets, and our Circle K members at University of California – Riverside helped write the messages, digitally and by hand, that contained cute little positive quotes and doodles.

In addition to club support, I also received help and support for this project from my family, particularly my mother and grandmother. My grandmother helped me collect and transport supplies and to meet with members. On top of this, she also helped put together blankets. On the day that I delivered the items, my mother and I drove around to a few stores to pick up some supplies before finally heading to Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. When we arrived at the facility we were greeted by smiling employees who thanked us and collected the items to be donated. 

Although I wasn’t initially sure of the reasoning behind it, I was drawn to this project; it just felt important. Now I realize this project is especially important to me because in volunteering through Circle, we had volunteered with both Salvation Army and the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth several times. There was a stretch of time in which we were volunteering at Salvation Army at least once a month, and this came to become my favorite service project out of the plethora of service projects we participated in. Although we did not volunteer at NPHY as frequently as we did Salvation Army it was still just as impactful each time. Both of these projects always stood out in my mind as places to volunteer where you could instantly see the impact your actions were having. Honestly, I had thought about the issues of homelessness on and off for years, but it wasn’t until college and volunteering with these organizations that I really began to realize how prevalent youth homelessness is. Between the experiences that I had volunteering in college and making and distributing kits in Washington, this project, this cause, seemed like an obvious choice to make.

Although this service project felt very different in that we were not directly engaging with community members,  donating supplies to employees of NPHY was still impactful in many ways on its own. The members of the club who participated can know that they made a difference that will last for a significant period of time. Volunteering one day to help serve food or wrap gifts is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to spend a day. We also made durable blankets and donated other items, which is why I encourage anyone with even an inkling to get involved.

To whoever is reading this, if you want to become involved and don’t think you are doing enough, start small – volunteering in any way will make a difference. If you have an idea for a project that you would like to take on in your community, do it. Run with any amount of motivation you have, take the first step, gather supplies, gather friends, and make that idea a reality, whether big or small. 

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