There are the easy give-aways: hand to the next panhandler you see on the street. It would make his/her day but I'm not sure how meaningful that exchange would be. (If anyone did just that, I'm not judging. :-) ) Writing a check to your favorite charity would certainly bless that charity but you probably already support that charity so what would make this donation any different?
When we heard about a project that James McNorton was developing in the Heartside neighborhood, we were immediately intrigued.
Homeless since May of 2017, James lives on the street because he cannot tolerate the local shelters. (I'm just leaving that there for now.) He also wants to maintain his status/label as a homeless artist. His mission of being able to help others is based on that. He can usually be found selling his handmade cards in front of the Children's Museum. Yesterday we took a walk and he showed me where he usually hangs out and where he stashes some of his things in random outside locations (those will not be divulged).
James remembers how he felt when he was suddenly on the streets of what was then an unfamiliar city with nothing but the clothes on his back. Those are the people for whom he now looks. Lost and desperate, the newly homeless have a look that James knows. If they receive no immediate help, they may become sexual prey and/or fall into the hands of drug dealers who are there to 'help' them dull the pain.
James went to local organizations/churches and started collecting goods, information, and monetary donations to create a resource backpack that he could distribute.
The newly homeless are already carrying what they own and this backpack easily slips on. Contents vary slightly depending on gender. In a very traditional move, the pink bags are for women/girls and blue bags are for men/boys. :-)
Food vouchers, bus passes, advice on where to go and where to stay, toiletries, water, and more, provide what James calls a 'comfort pack'. The cost to put together one pack is $30.00. And that is where our church gift will go.
Heartside Ministry is where I first met James and Heartside is one of his home bases, the other being Fountain Street Church. The bags are stored at both places (as well as non-disclosed locations) and James picks one up when he needs one. Heartside is taking donations for his project, earmarking the funds for the backpacks.
We had more time to talk at the Heartside Gala last week and that cinched our decision.You won't find a person with a bigger heart than James McNorton. One of his favorite phrases is "it's all about the love" and this man lives that out everyday.
Here's a video of James from Wood TV taken in December of 2017: