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Monday, June 27, 2011

Christmas Challenge on behalf of the Homeless


You can give more for less. At first, this does not seem to be sound advice. It is a good idea. No, it is a great idea. Maybe you would rather give less for more. Hmmm...this is how I do it...

First of all, I would never advocate giving to the homeless only at Christmas. This idea is for collecting warm items for the winter, items you can find in summer yard sales. I have started giving these items earlier in the Fall.

One year at Christmas I listened to a friend who said that she had found watches on sale for $5 and had bought several dozen to give to young men who were trying to get a job. They were mostly homeless. She surmised that they could not get to appointments on time unless they had a watch. I felt sad that I could not be so generous to that many people. Without money, I thought, this was impossible.

Later that year, at a garage sale I saw a pair of gloves for a quarter.  Hmmm, these are nice gloves and warm, something a person in need might find very helpful. Then, the light bulb. I could get all the gloves I found that were only a quarter and in good shape and give them to the homeless shelter!

As I made the rounds of yard sales, I did find about a dozen pair for a quarter. Warm scarves and hats caught my eye. Now, I was collecting hats, gloves, and scarves. At the final yard sale of the year, the people were touting the merits of the gloves that they marked $2, telling me how much they cost to begin with. Finally, I revealed to them what I was doing and that I only bought quarter gloves. The two couples and others in the yard sale, had a conversation. As I walked away, they stopped me.

"Here, we will give you all the gloves, hats, scarves AND all the coats if you are giving them away." I assured them I was. Three minutes later, I could barely see out of the car because of all the coats filling the front and back seats of the passenger area.

The reason I stick to gloves, scarves, and hats is storage room. So, I made room for the three or four trash bags that held my loot + coats when I delivered it to my friend. It took two men to carry it all onto my friend's front porch. I am still collecting only the smaller items.

Panties and briefs and boxers were often reduced to a quarter at Walmart. I bought those as I could afford them. Some days, I was stretching to be able to afford an extra quarter. Other days, I spent my last 50 cents. The days of quarter panties ended...sigh. But, in the meantime, I bought all my grandchildren's underwear for about two years and some to put away for another year beyond. These bought to give to the homeless were with the warm yard sale items to give.

That Christmas, I probably spent only $10 giving to those without means. At least a dozen people stayed warm. Nothing was shabby, just not new. I left shabby things for others to buy. One of the coats was leather and was insulated, also. Giving $10 means nothing to the masses who need. Giving all I had worked for more people.

All the hats and the little pair of gloves in the picture were at a neighbor's yard sale. She lives on the next block and just moved in. The hats were $1. When I started to put them down, she told me her husband wore them when he was in the Army and how warm they were. I told her I only bought things for a quarter and told her what I was doing with them. She handed them all to me and added the little pair of gloves. I tried to pay for them (quarter each), but she was generous. She had coats but I did not beg for them by telling me other people gave me coats one year. I get what I can get for a quarter and maintain low expectations so others will not be resentful and feel like I am begging or pressuring them.

The first year, I gave all I collected to my friend on Christmas Day. So, homeless people who had nothing warm still were cold on Christmas. The next year, I took it all on Thanksgiving Day.

Although I am in the South and Birmingham is even further south, it still gets cold, especially if people are out for very long in the weather. I can run to the car gloveless day in and day out until January if I want to. But, I imagine not having a warm house or car or a warm destination. No, gloves are needed.

Another way to give more for less is to get free items or really, really cheap items using coupons and sales. Give those items to the homeless or those who have no means of obtaining the things we take for granted. However, collecting good, warm, yard sale items is my way of giving.

Your turn
Can you find one thing or several warm things that homeless or destitute people need, buy it for a quarter and stretch your giving dollars at Christmas (winter)?


  1. I knit for a childrens charity so if I finish my quota early,, I'll find a homeless shelter and see if they will take things used or if they prefer new.
    I think this is a great idea. A couin used o collect peop,es unwanted everything, sell it and give the money to a shelter. That worked well too.

  2. LindaM, Of course,there are many variations on the theme of helping. My way of doing this is just a quarter or two at a time over a period of time, so that fits my budget. Your cousin had a great idea! Do you knit hats?

  3. such a fabulous and generous idea! I volunteered at a temporary homeless shelter for several years, and gloves were always in short supply. One thing that surprised me was when a guy turned down a pair of those heavy, lined gloves for some thin brown jersey workman's gloves. He said the bigger gloves always fell out of his pockets & got lost. thanks for sharing this, Linda, and I'll start looking myself!

  4. @Dmarie, Thanks for that information. I sort of figured that each homeless person lost gloves due to not needing them in the summer, loss from pockets even during the winter, and others taking them. Even with a stable environment, I have to search for gloves some days!
    I was even given one glove that I accepted and passed on. Who knows when a person can use just one glove to pick up or do something that will ruin the glove?

  5. This is a nice post to remember that it is important to give all year-round and not just around the holidays. I tend to fall into that trap. My favorite Christmas giving activity is Operation Christmas Child.

  6. tlc, thanks for the comments. You must be feeling better.

  7. Great idea, Linda! As for us, my father died last year and he was a collector of coats. It seemed he was always on the lookout for a warmer coat, and I contribute that to growing up poor and cold. Anyway, my mom will be donating them all to a coat collection, just have to fine one locally.

  8. He may have some gloves and warm hats to give away, too. That is a good idea to donate them to people who might be cold. It is good that you understand how his early life led him on this quest and ended up with many coats.

  9. How very thoughtful of you!! I've heard most homeless also need jeans, belts and vitamins.... That is something I'm on the lookout for. Not long ago, Old Navy had mens jeans on sale for $1.97! So I bought most of what they had. Another time I found orange jackets at Target for less than $3, so I picked those.... I think it's a hoot. I also try and remember to pray over the items and the makers of the items where ever they are. God bless you!

    1. That was a great sale on jeans and orange jackets. I am sure someone will be very happy to receive them.


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