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There seems to be more people holding cardboard signs asking for help at Toledo intersections these days, the Rev. Mary Sullivan said. And as much as she wants to help them, she is hesitant to give them cash for fear they may be scam artists or might use the money for something besides food or rent.
But the pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in downtown Toledo has found a simple solution: Manna Bags.
The gallon-sized zip-close bags are packed with nonperishable food items such as packs of crackers, tuna fish, fruit snacks, or granola bars; a bottle of water; personal care items such as toothbrushes or wipes; a list of area soup kitchens and food pantries, and a personal note.
Members of the Madison Avenue church have donated the ingredients for about 50 Manna Bags, which cost $2 each, and children attending St. Paul’s “Shake It Up Cafe” Vacation Bible School assembled the bags this week.
“With so many individuals that we’re seeing out in the street and intersections, we feel this is a very simple way we can reach out to folks and help them,” Ms. Sullivan said.
The bags can be stored in a vehicle and passed through the car windows when the need arises, she said.
“It’s a mission project that just touches people in a very simple way. Anybody can do it. Don’t give somebody $5, give them a meal and a list of places they can go for food,” Ms. Sullivan said.
The idea for Manna Bags came from Cokesbury, the United Methodist Church’s publishing house, which incorporated the food packages into its “Shake It Up Cafe” Vacation Bible School. The VBS curriculum includes Bible stories about the ancient Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years and surviving on manna, or bread provided by God that covered the ground every morning.
The Bible school also cites Scriptures on feeding the hungry, helping the poor, and learning to give as an expression of thankfulness.
Cokesbury credits the Manna Bags concept to Amanda Denkler of Boca Raton, Fla., who at age 9 was driven by compassion after seeing her mother buy a hamburger for a homeless person.
“We need to do something for people like him,” Amanda told her mom.
Amanda came up with the idea of putting nonperishable foods and other useful items in a shoebox, along with a Bible verse and a brief note of encouragement. In November, 2006, the young girl founded Kids of Compassion, a nonprofit ministry.
“Never overlook an opportunity to give, because you will feel so much better when you do,” Amanda told Cokesbury.
In its first three years, Kids of Compassion passed out 1,200 boxes of supplies and food to people in need.
“It’s a great answer for someone who needs a meal and a little something extra,” Amanda said. “By keeping boxes in our cars, we have a convenient package all ready for that person.”
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.