A “Blessing” for Those in Need

CITC Child & Family Service staff focus on homeless population for team project


When CITC’s Child and Family Services (CFS) staff began to plan its annual retreat this year, they elected not to arrange another training or focus on employee wellness. Instead, they decided to give back.

“We wanted to do something totally different,” reflected Joe Garoutte, a CFS coordinator. “We thought, what’s the greatest need, with the economy like it is in Alaska and people getting laid off? We thought maybe we could do a one-day, one-shot thing to assist homeless people.”

And so project Blessing Bag was born. The CFS team opted to take the budget it had set aside for its retreat and buy toiletries and other items, which will be given away in the form of “Blessing Bags” to homeless individuals on November 10.

Though the project committee decided it could commit to giving away 200 items even if it has to support its effort completely out-of-pocket, they’ve gotten some help in the form of donations. Joe approached his own dentist — “I’ve given him enough money over the years,” he joked — and asked for whatever the dental office could spare. “Fifteen minutes later, my dentist called and said they had ordered 200 toothbrushes, toothpastes, and floss, and it would be here in a week,” Joe said.

And first thing Halloween morning, he received a call from a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency, who not only wanted to solicit Blessing Bag donations at her staff meeting, but asked if she and her seventeen-year-old son could help pack bags on distribution day.

“That’s what we’re hoping to have people do,” Joe explained. “Put in time, effort, maybe a little money, have some skin in the game, and give. If you get an opportunity to give back with no expectation of anything in return, that’s the most powerful way of giving.”

CITC’s CFS staff is no stranger to giving back. Several times a year, the department organizes a “garage sale giveaway,” where those in need can come pick out items like clothing, housewares, toys, books, and more from donated items. And until last year, the staff participated in an annual spring clean-up.

As employees who work on a daily basis with families who are often struggling, though, the CFS department understood that many needy individuals in our community are classified as “homeless,” when in fact many of them are our friends, colleagues, and relatives.

For Joe, the focus on the homeless population was personal.

“I’ve been there; I’ve been hungry,” he recalled. “I remember a young couple helped me out when I was a kid. Just out of the blue, gave me a ride and $20 when I was fourteen and having a difficult time. I never forgot that. If you bring a little comfort to somebody, it’s a big deal. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The CFS team will be collecting donations at its office on the first floor of the Nat’uh Service Center until November 10. On that day, employees and others are invited to help assemble and distribute Blessing Bags. Items not distributed that day will be donated to Beans Café, Brother Francis Shelter, Anchorage Rescue Mission, and other nonprofits that serve the homeless population.

Items needed for the Blessing Bags include:
1. Wipes
2. Tissue
3. Tooth brush/tooth paste
4. Soap
5. Lotion
6. Shampoo/conditioner
7. Tylenol
8. Cough drops
9. Socks
10. Hats/gloves/scarves
11. Hand warmers
12. Granola bars
13. Fruit
14. Bus passes
15. Coho coffee coin
16. Feminine hygiene products
17. Shaving kit
18. Comb or brush
19. Chap stick
20. Gallon Sized Zip Lock Bag

For more information, please contact Joe Garoutte at (907) 793-3162 or jgaroutte@citci.org.