Our Blessing Food Bags Outreach Program at Saint Miriam is an award-winning outreach to the homeless and food insecure in our area. Our program extends primarily to greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and suburbs, as well as Camden, New Jersey, Wilmington and Dover, Delaware areas.
Our food blessing bags are supported by grant donations and volunteer contributions and are filled with nutritious food and goodies, as well as personal care items and feminine hygiene products for female clients. We introduced these Blessing Food Bags in 2018 and the idea of having a ready bag prepared and ready to hand out to our homeless brothers and sisters was greeted with enthusiasm by the members of our parish. These bags provide a homeless person with enough food to sustain them for a few days, as well as personal care items, and allows us to help them. The bags also contains such items as granola bars, Vienna Sausages, Tuna and/or Chicken packages, water, juice, crackers, peanut butter, and cookies and personal care items, as well as a personal notes and hand-drawn messages from our children programming and those who packed the bags for distribution!
One of the most wonderful aspects of our program is that we ask those who volunteer to take the Blessing Food Bags into the streets to also engage with the receiving individual and bring their humanity to the surface. We invite them to accept the bags, not mandate, and try to visit with them and learn their journey as we support them in their life.
And, we have three additional tag-along bags for special needs and circumstances including females in need of feminine hygiene products and our “Pets with People Bags” for currently homeless persons with pets to care for, and for our transgender brothers and sisters, too! You can support our outreach program through:
What Do We Put in the Bags?
Because not all needs are the same, we have different versions and additions to how we assemble our Blessing Bags:
Basic Blessing Bag:
- Package of crackers (21 per pack)
- Granola Bar
- Napkin, fork, knife and spoon packets
- Small container apple-sauce or fruit mix
- Bumble bee Chicken Salad (small container)
- Juice pack
- Individual container of pudding
- Small container of Vienna Sausages
- Single package of cheddar cheese and pretzels/crackers
- Cinnamon twirl cake (1 little serving)
- Individually wrapped cookie
- Packets of peanut butter
- Tooth Paste
- Soap (mini bars)
- Body lotion (small bottles)
- Personal Care /Sanitization Wipes
Car Safe at Saint Miriam
We opened our lower parking lot to help those people living within their cars by providing them a “Safe Car Space.” The program is simple: The car-resident registers at the Administration doors, complete a brief questionnaire to ensure our safety, and get a Blessing Bag and support services. They are able to stay overnight from 8pm – 7am as well as receive a referral to more permanent housing solutions! Registration occurs daily between 6:30pm and 7:00pm and no registrations can take place after 8:00pm.
We add to the Blessing Bag the following:
Just for Girls – Period:
In addition to our basic Blessing Bag we also add:
- Feminine hygiene products
- Feminine Personal Care Wipes
As You Transition
Over the last 5+ years, we’ve seen the menstrual and reproductive health space begin to shift with respect to trans & nonbinary inclusion. As a Franciscan Catholic Parish that welcomes and cares for everyone in need, we are so proud to be part of that change by adding our newest specialty bags to our Blessing Bag Outreach Program for those experiencing homelessness. Our newest specialty bags join alongside our “Just for Girls. Period.” by offering discreetly designed feminine hygiene products while simultaneously respecting the trans person. We feel more committed than ever to serving the needs of one of the largest growing segments of homelessness; those LGBTQ persons rejected by family and friends and forced to live on the streets. In very real and tangible ways that value, respect, and affirm the diversity of their experiences and identities, we continue to care. We listened, we heard, we acted and now, we love even more.
People with Pets:
Homelessness and hunger affects more than just people. Animals are God’s creatures as well and deserve our help as much as their human companions. In addition to the basic bag, we also add:
- Dog Food (dry)
- Cat Food (small cans wet, or dry)
- Pet treats
- Pet Toys
We Couldn’t Do It Without Them!
Bernadette McGoldrick, Supply Chain Coordinator
Bern helps us keep our supplies up to date and overflowing so we can help many more! As Supply Chain Coordinator, her job is keep track of and to organize the supplies donated for the Blessing Bags. After discussing with both our Program Coordinator, and our Distribution Team, she helps to establish how many blessing food bags and hygiene bags we aim to distribute each week. This number may fluctuate with the needs of the homeless community as well as the amount of donations received. By determining a specific number of bags, we now know what is needed in donations to reach our goal. She, and several other volunteers meet each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings to assemble the bags for distribution. We are sincerely grateful to all our donors who enable us to help our sisters and brothers in need! To add you donations, or to volunteer stocking our shelves, please reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Sherf, Volunteer Coordinator
Writer and communications consultant Barbara Sherf is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Blessing Bags Outreach Program at Saint Miriam. Barb is charged with vetting potential volunteers, training them, scheduling volunteers and ensuring that their paperwork is in order. Barb also enjoys the simple task of making blessing bags with other volunteers. In her down time, she enjoys capturing the stories of elders in book form. She can be reached at Barb@CommunicationsPro.com
Tom Frey, Distribution Coordinator
Tom leads our team of volunteers that literally take the food to the streets! Tom has been featured on Fox, Times Herald and Philadelphia Inquirer He works a full-time job as a Master Plumber and is a valued parishioner at Saint Miriam, but his heart belongs to those on the streets. You will see his pop-up Blessing Bags all over the City! Contact Tom to help at info@mySaintMiriam.org.
Clifford McGoldrick, Volunteer
Cliff helps us in all areas of our program as a primary volunteer! From supply to moving items around to hitting the streets, Cliff is a wonderful volunteer and an be seen almost every day at Saint Miriam and helping those on the streets!
(The Reverend) Father Frank Michael Souza, Associate Pastor for Community Outreach and Virtual Worship, OSFoc, M.Div, MAPT
Father Frank Souza serves as our Associate Pastor for Community Outreach and Virtual Worship at Saint Miriam. He is also a professed Franciscan. As Associate Pastor for Community Outreach and Virtual Worship. In this capacity he oversees all outreach operations including recruitment, budget, staffing, operations, and oversight of all Outreach Opportunities including Blessing Bags @ Saint Miriam, Kensington Project, Laurel House, Scarves with a Purpose, and Starlight Retreat Center. He will also oversee our new “Virtual Worship Initiatives”, integrate CFF with our DRE and our Pastor, and oversee all Grant writing activities. Father will also maintain his Sunday Mass rotations for celebrating the liturgy as well as all liturgical functions of the parish and our community as a priest. He serves on the school board and continues to offers oversight and direction.