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Mid Cape Global Academy students create Blessing Bags

By Special to The Breeze - | Mar 4, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Helping load up Blessing Bags are, from left, Mary Nies from Abundant Grace Fellowship; Mid Cape Global Academy teacher Danielle Mann; Pastor Sarah of Abundant Grade Fellowship; seventh graders Karina Delagarza, Andre Simmon and Kendrew Malbranche; and the school’s mascot Ollie the Burrowing Owl.

As seventh grade student Karina Delagarza filled Blessing Bags with donated toiletry items, she couldn’t help having mixed emotions. On one hand she felt like she was doing something significant to help those less fortunate, but on the other hand she was sad that there are so many who are homeless and don’t even have the bare necessities to get by.

“A lot of people lost their jobs during the pandemic because they weren’t essential workers,” said Delagarza. “They just don’t have enough money to take care of themselves anymore and that’s really sad. I was surprised to find out how many people were in need.”

The Blessing Bag project was the brainchild of teacher Danielle Mann who got the idea from a friend.

“A good friend of mine always prepared little bags of toiletries and would hand them out to the homeless,” said Mann. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to give our seventh grade global perspectives class a hands-on, real-life tangible way to tackle the United Nations 17 sustainable goals to make our world a better place to live.”

Sustainable goal #3 is for good health and well-being. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness on a given night, 31,030 people are homeless; in the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area, that number is 728 or almost 10 per 10,000 people.

“It was really exciting to do something for people who can’t do much for themselves,” said Kendrew Malbranche, another seventh grade student in the class. “I had no idea people needed things like razors and shaving cream. It was really eye-opening.”

Student Andre Simmon just imagined what it would be like to see the reaction of the people who received the bags.

“The people from Abundant Grace Fellow-ship were so excited and happy to get the bags,” said Simmon. “I was so proud of myself and my classmates who were able to participate and make this happen. We want the people who are homeless to know that the students at Mid Cape Global Academy love them and we want to help them get through these tough times.”

According to Mary Neis, outreach coordinator for Abundant Grace Fellowship, those visiting their meal site will greatly appreciate these bags.

“We serve 45-50 people every Wednesday and Sunday and most of them are homeless,” said Neis. “These Blessing Bags are everything they need to get from week to week. Our homeless population haver resources where they can take showers and take care of their basic hygiene, but they don’t usually have the items they need like toothbrushes or toothpaste. It was an amazing thing that these kids did to help others. We’re all moved beyond words.”

Neis delivered the bags to participants at a recent lunch.

“These truly are Blessing Bags for our guests,” said Neis. “Many have come to us for years and have nothing. The snacks and personal items gathered by this great group of kids mean everything to them. It’s amazing what these kids have done for our community.”

Recipients were thrilled to get these bags and commented at how much they meant to them. (Due to the sensitive nature of this story, they’ve requested we only use their first names.)

“Blessing Bags is a great name for sure. Appreciate the female friendly products,” said Lori, a frequent visitor to the lunch service.

“This is so helpful as I have no money to buy these things, snacks are great too,” added Josh, another who attends the lunch service regularly.

The students feel like they were changed by participating in this project and were thrilled to be part of helping others less fortunate. They also think their participation could be the catalyst for change for others.

“If a bunch of seventh graders can help this many people, think about what would happen if everyone did something,” added Delagarza. “Little things can make a big difference.”

Delagarza was surprised there were that many who were in need.

“It’s hard to understand that a lot of people don’t even have enough money for toothbrushes and toothpaste,” said Delagarza. “A lot of people who weren’t essential workers lost their jobs and now they don’t even have enough money to take care of themselves. I was really happy be able to be part of helping those people who are really in need.”

Delagarza thinks the example she and her classmates gave could be the start of something bigger.

“Just think about it. If a seventh grade class could do this much, everyone could do something even if it’s something little. Little things can make a big difference,” said Delagarza.