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Local nonprofit lifts spirits during holiday season

Bags of Love made 250 plates to deliver to the needy.

Local nonprofit lifts spirits during holiday season
January 01
10:00 2021

Bags of Love is in its infancy as a nonprofit, but they are already making a tangible impact on the community. Last weekend they supplied those in need with a hearty meal and supplies needed to make it through the winter months.

Chris Graves, CEO of Bags of Love, says their mission is to provide essential items to those in need in Guilford County and surrounding areas. Graves said because he was not able to have the event he envisioned on Thanksgiving, he wanted to make sure he had all his ducks in a row for Christmas.

“While I was trying to get a lot of things covered, we found out that we really didn’t have enough time to get it done exactly the way we wanted to, so what I did was I started planning for Christmas,” said Graves.  

For the Christmas event, Bags of Love targeted known areas of need in Greensboro and High Point to deliver their meals. Graves stated he knew transportation would be an issue for many in their target area, so he wanted to remove that barrier by delivering the meals to them. Their goal was to deliver 250 meals to those in need. 

“What we try to do is target those who stand on the street corner first,” Graves said. “What we found is many of those individuals do not typically like to go to shelters for whatever reason. So, during the holidays when a lot of people are focusing on going to shelters to deliver food, these people are getting missed.”

According to Graves, the idea to start the nonprofit manifested out of an email that came from his church.

“This kind of just happened upon me one day; I woke up one morning and I had an email from the church that I had been serving with and the email was inviting everyone to get involved with the community,” he said. “I looked down the list of things to do and one of the things was to create essential items’ bags to pass out to the homeless and instantly I wanted to do that.

“They were like this is something for you to do and I was looking for someone to team up with. They said they didn’t do that, and I was down for a few minutes and then I started praying about it. I didn’t have the resources to do it on any type of level that will truly be beneficial, and I believe that God spoke and told me that the community is the resource. That was July 15, and our birthday is July 29, so it was a very quick turnaround and since then I’ve been amazed at all the volunteers and donations.”

Graves said he targeted the homeless and needy because he feels many in that population are overlooked and ignored.

“It’s really easy to see someone standing on the street when you are in your car and look the other way as they are standing there, or to assume that they’re going to get into a fancy car when they leave, or to assume they are lazy,” Graves went on to say. “What we found is many of these individuals truly need help for one reason or another, whether it be mental instability, or whether it be falling down on hard times, or even health issues.

“It’s very important for us to show them that someone is concerned about their well-being. It’s important for us to show them that where they are is not always where they have to always be. We believe in providing the most basic needs and encouraging them to get those other needs taken care of.”

One of the ways Bags of Love encourages the people they help is to include a list of resources inside of every bag they give away. 

“It has places that they can get help for drug addiction, or where they can get free or reduced-price medications, places that are targeted to getting people off of the streets and into homes,” he said about the list of resources they include in every bag of love. “We give them that as well as the bag as an effort to give them the boost they need to seek out those resources.”

Graves and his executive board came up with the name “Bags of Love” for the nonprofit, because they feel that’s exactly what they are.  

“There is food in the bags, there is sanitary items in the bags, there’s clothing in the bags, but for us it’s so much more than essential items, it’s an extension of love,” said Graves. “Our foundational scripture is Matthew 25:35. This is God talking to his people saying, as little as you have done unto the least of these, so have you done unto me, and he tells us that’s what love looks like.

“These bags are so much more than tissue, hats and snacks; it’s us extending the love of Christ to someone who may or may not know him.”

For Graves, who is a minister, 2020 has been a year that allowed him to slow down and survey his path in life.  

“Prior to this year, lots of my time was spent serving, but lots of my time was spent serving Christians, doing different things within the church,” he said. “2020 allowed me to sit down and realize that what I’ve been doing is great, but there’s so much more outside of the four walls outside the church that need to be done, so it showed me that while I am young and able, I need to be out and helping somebody who actually needs help.”

Graves commended his volunteers on their efforts to get the nonprofit off the ground. He says one of their slogans is “From 2 to 102, Bags of Love can use you.”

“We have space for anybody who wants to help,” he said.  

To get the nonprofit moving in the right direction, Graves has reached out to the community for like-minded people to connect with Sylvia Hicks for their Thanksgiving and Christmas events.

“I just have a passion for helping the community and I just get involved in any way I can to try to help and serve the greater good,” said Hicks. “When you go out the people are so appreciative and grateful for all the things we do, it’s just a feel-good thing.

“For me, I think I get my greatest joy is to see people happy, because there was a time when I didn’t have and I didn’t necessarily have the help, so for me to be able to do the things that would have been helpful to me back in the day, is probably one of the greatest feelings I can have.”

Graves has many things on his agenda he wants to pursue with Bags of Love. He says they have plans to grow beyond what they are doing, even if it only means they expand the number of people they help.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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