March 2015

These care-bags bring the total to over 510 bags for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago. March 31, 2015 is the 95th week of making and delivering care bags with dozens of nutritious snacks and treats, toiletries and assistance information.

I skipped a week because I was in PA. I just came back from delivering these bags and I probably shouldn’t be writing quite yet; my thoughts are fragmented and unorganized. I fear this post may be more about me and less about the homeless I saw today.
I returned from PA Sunday night. I had a couple of good visits with my grandfather which was the main reason for the trip. I saw my father several times and some friends but didn’t tell anyone I’d be in town beforehand. I guess today I am feeling invisible. My trip home, laying low here in Chicago; I’m feeling invisible. When I return to my hometown of Indiana, PA I can feel the perception of me is based on the past relationships and a little of the present from what is read online. I’m sensitive to how people perceive me, or at least I’ve convinced myself I have a good bead on it. My father is getting to know me better. I reconnect with old friends and reminisce. Sometimes I get to talk about art and what I’m passionate about. Sometimes I feel like I’m delivering the cliffs notes of my art because its like the PR version of what I’m doing, assessing if there’s interest to continue. Its all a delicate balance of perception. Now that I’m back in Chicago, I’ve been laying low, having a difficult time readjusting to being here. My first real interactions were with the homeless today. I met a man named Frank. He was panhandling in Ted’s usual spot on a Fullerton exit ramp. He said he liked “everything” in the care bag and gave me a fist bump and said “god bless you”. For some reason I said it back to him. It struck me odd because I’m a pretty steadfast atheist and have been for a long time. It just felt right I suppose. I saw Ted and we talked about my trip home to PA; he was happy to see me and we talked for a bit. Today I wish I had more bags to hand out. I think I can go on delivering these bags without bringing too much of the sorrow home with me because I set boundaries. Limiting the number of care bags is one of those boundaries reminding me I can only do so much. It is difficult, there are more occasions of heartbreak than there are victories. The victories usually come in the form of trust and conversation or friends making care bags with their families. I’m just rambling at this point but for the first time, today I felt some form of isolation or state of invisibility and equated it with the homeless and how the perception of others can be so powerful and give reason for pause.
Please check out this years 3rd annual fundraiser for care-bags.org. I’m trying very hard to motivate supporters to give any amount to assist me with this cause without being too aggressive, but it is difficult. smile emoticon There’s a long way to go to reach the goal. ‪#‎ShareTheCare‬, ‪#‎CareBags‬https://fundanything.com/…/annual-care-bags-org-fundraiser-…

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These care-bags bring the total to over 505 care-bags for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago. March 14, 2015 is the 94th week of making and delivering care bags with dozens of nutritious snacks and treats, toiletries and assistance information.

When I was collecting donated firewood with Meegan Czop at ReBuilding Exchange her boyfriend and I had a conversation about a sign which a man panhandling was holding. The sign read, “Nobody reads these signs”. He was discussing the impact the sign had on him. He went on to say he talked about it with his friends and thought about its meaning often. I couldn’t believe it. I told him, “I made that sign!”. The odds of this conversation taking place…It was such a good moment to hear that a sign served its purpose and had some type of impact. I had made about 15 signs last April and presented to the homeless to see if they might be interested in using them. I thought the signs could possibly make them more money and in my wildest dreams, the signs would make people notice them and think. Then a few days ago I was working for a new customers, Amy and Scott. I brought them a care-bag as I always do for people I meet under certain circumstances. Amy told me about a man that panhandles on a California/Diversey exit ramp. She talked about his face and the “everyman” qualities he possessed. She then brought up a sign that he was holding (flying) that hit home for her, “Homeless, what if it was you?”. She told me about the financial situation they were in at the time and she made a connection to the sign James was holding. The sign had a big impact on her, so much so that she has been working on an essay about it and what she experienced. Again, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…”I made that sign!”. You have to understand, I made these signs a year ago in April and I have only heard some minor feedback from them, maybe once. Most of these signs weren’t used more than a couple days by the homeless for a number of reasons. Some felt discomfort away from their normal brown cardboard signs with the black sharpie marker. Typically their signs read “homeless”, “please help”, “god bless”, but I wanted to create new, durable signs in some effort to “re-brand” away from the brown signs to something people might notice and think about. I imagined people viewing the new colorful signs with lingering thoughts about how they were made, the “whys”?, the “whats”? and the people holding them. I hoped people would see them for people instead of ignoring them. I hoped passers by would not only give more but think about the homeless and put themselves in their shoes. A year later I am having these two separate, completely organic conversions, meeting two people by chance, in the city of Chicago. Hearing about the impact they made on them a year later just blew my mind. Amazing.
I spoke to James today and he still holds the sign I made for him. Its worn now but he still uses it. I told him about Amy in hopes that he would know people are thinking about him and the message. Its a rare moment to be able to give feedback to him about this; all the things that had to transpire for that to happen. It was a pretty great day. I want to make more signs. I cant wait to tell Amy I spoke to James and I hope someday I get to read the finished essay shes working on.

To make a donation of any amount to care-bags.org, please visit the crowd funding page here. 

To see more signs that were created click HERE.

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500th care bag was made today for the homeless!!

Its the 93rd week of making and delivering care bags for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago. March 7, 2015 makes over 500 care bags with dozens of nutritious snacks and treats, toiletries and assistance information delivered.

I’ve been thinking about this post all week. 500 care bags represents over $12,500, not including other forms of relief like clothing drives, transportation, back packs, cash, etc. I think we respond well to these types of “milestones”, 500 being a nice, big round number. I don’t quite see it like that or more specifically value it more than say, care bag number 257. It does represent a lot of support and caring from everyone that has contributed to get this number to 500 and for that I’m very grateful and reflective. A lot of wonderful things have happened throughout the course like helping Bud get off the streets or being a friend to Roger. Making the bags have cemented some great relationships with my homeless friends, connected me to a lot of caring people and taught me a lot about myself. Can you tell already that this post will be long winded?

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” -Maya Angelou

I want to be as open and revealing as possible when I share these posts. I’m often insecure about my ability to write. Those that know me know I’d much rather talk and talk and talk…Sometimes, no, most of the time, the writing is labored because maybe I’m tired or have a difficult time communicating all the things I’m experiencing in the homeless community and something gets lost along the way. I sometimes get to inside my head and become concerned with judgments from others. I’ve been searching to find the right balance as I’m sure everyone is. I don’t mind the rawness of the posts, just as long as the sincerity comes through with what I’m experiencing. In my mind I’m rarely successful at this. I’m 41 years old, at that age I’ve lived long enough to go through a few changes over the years. Facebook is full of friends I haven’t seen in a long time, in some cases over 20 years. People change, they change their political and social positions, they have families and change careers but there is an element of the person we remember being frozen in the time we last knew them. In high school I was materialistic and only cared about being popular. Picture a young, preppy republican. This was the mask I wore to hide what was going on in my home and I was good at hiding it until about 6 months from graduation, then everything changed. In college I was trying to figure it all out and making mistakes along the way and sometimes hurting others. I was discovering what kind of artist I was and trying to hear my own voice. These days I feel I’m the best working version of myself I have ever been, though it’s constant work and sometimes a struggle to “stay the course”. I’m working on being the person and artist I want to be. I want to contribute a voice. I want to make beautiful things. I want to value “other currencies” like real friends, self improvement and kindness more than ever before. When I examine my life, my shift in priorities is probably why I don’t make a lot of money. My business is good, its solid and I pay the people that work with me as generous a wage as possible to stay afloat. I consider the cost of making these care bags more important than dinners at a great restaurants or keeping up with whatever boots I should have to stay fashion relevant. Its in my nature to be selfish, I struggle. For me, its just more valuable when I compare what is gained from from doing something for someone else than to keep up with the Jones. That said, there are many things I’ve gained from making these bags, one is the value of not judging others. I don’t judge the homeless as less and I don’t judge others that don’t make care bags themselves. I do wish they would, if only to gain something wonderful that I think I have experienced. I don’t judge the poor or the rich or at least I make a big effort not to. I’ve always been surrounded by great people that have helped me on this journey, my landlords of the past 4-5 years are a recent example of my luck and support. Then there’s the caring people that contribute to care bags throughout the year.
I’m single, I don’t have children so I think I live a pretty selfish life. I am able to pursue whats important to me in art or social issues and take risks where my other friends cannot. I was able to have founded care-bags.orgwhere others may not have because of this. This is rare of me to write all of this but I hope it helps my friends understand more about care-bags.org than what this often satirical version of myself displayed on Facebook. Thanks to all of you that helped make a difference with care-bags.org and here’s to another 500 bags. Please visit care-bags.org every now and then, leave me feedback on Facebook, let me know you were here, it means a lot to me. ‪#‎ShareTheCare‬, ‪#‎carebags‬

“You know, life fractures us all into little pieces. It harms us, but it’s how we glue those fractures back together that make us stronger.”
― Carrie Jones, Entice

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Today is the 92nd week of making and delivering care bags for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago. March 1, 2015 makes over 494 care bags with dozens of nutritious snacks and treats, toiletries and assistance information delivered.

If you are keeping up with the weekly blog on care-bags.org, you will see a very generous donation in the form of a package that came last week. This was following a week that I was only able to afford to make 3 care bags. Today I made 6 bags. To the generous, kind person/family that put together this package with so many items in it, I cant thank you enough. I don’t know who you are but I’m assuming you’ll see this. I was really moved and humbled when I opened the box. I’m glad you feel what I’m doing is important enough to move you to gather these items and ship them to me. Thank you very, very much! I also want to thank Colleen O’mara and Amanda Hestdalen O’Mara for the generous donation of $100.00 towards the care bags. It was such a great surprise…you two are great!

I should also say that I talked to Norman finally face-to-face today. He is one of the homeless men staying under a local underpass. He normally talks to me from inside his winter structure. He’s very kind; we talked about the fire wood and can I dropped off a couple weeks ago. To him i’m the “firewood guy”, now he knows my name. He told me they went through the firewood I originally dropped off last Wednesday. Thanks to Meegan Czop andReBuilding Exchange I picked up another load of firewood and dropped it off today. Such great support from everyone, I cant thank you enough. As we approach 500 care bags made, I’m reminiscent of how this all got started and how far its come. I couldn’t do this without everyone’s help and support.care-bags.org, ‪#‎carebags‬, ‪#‎ShareTheCare‬

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