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St. Dunstan’s cares for the homeless

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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

With the weather turning bitterly cold, extra attention should be given to the needs of the homeless in Boston and surrounding communities. This week, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church used its Dover Unplugged night to help care for these people by packaging over 140 backpacks full of supplies they need and sending them to the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.

Dover Unplugged is a church event designed to bring members of the community together, away from electronics and screens (hence the name “unplugged”). Past nights have included mini golf inside the building, a talent show, and a chili cook-off, but this was one of the more service-oriented editions of the program.

Essentially, community members donated money to be afforded a nylon backpack. Once they had essentially bought the backpack, they made their way over to a table packed full of clothes like fleece gloves, hand-warmers, and socks (which had already been purchased) and packed them into the bag. Then, they took a Ziploc bag and made a care package of things like lip gloss, lotion, deodorant, pens and notebooks, Band Aids, and toothpaste, and added that to the backpack. Finally, there was a section of food, like tuna pouches, cereal bars and apple sauce for people to pack (though not for all the backpacks featured food items, due to hospital rules).

“We’re putting together 144 care kits for clients of Boston Health Care for the homeless program,” Carol Chirico, who was in charge of the event, explained. “They are an organization that serves the homeless and people who have had hospitalizations at Boston City Hospital and are then in a step down unit, where if you were to go for surgery and get put on bed-rest. For a homeless person, you don’t have a bed. So, they care for them. A number of these will be going to the patients in that unit, and others will be delivered by the medical team to individuals that live on the street. We have a lot of folks from all over town. Parents like this because it’s something their kids can participate in. So many opportunities for service - especially serving the homeless population - don’t allow kids under 12, for instance, but here we’ve got four and five-year olds doing this.”

While most of the items on the table had pretty obvious, direct uses for the homeless population, it was the final item that was added to the pack that may have been the most significant. Everyone that assembled one of the care packages added a handwritten note on a card, on which they could write whatever thoughtful, sympathetic or inspirational message they wanted the recipient to receive.

“One of the most important things that happens at the end is everybody writes a personalized card,” explained Chirico. “We provide them with suggestions about what to write, but we end up with each backpack having a card. I think it’s meaningful for somebody to have a handwritten note along with their care kit.”

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