Craigslist Care Package: Update 1

I figured you all might want to know how all of this is turning out, especially those of you who think of Craigslist or 1-to-1 giving as “scary”.  A little nutso, absolutely!, but so far nothing even remotely scary. 

Yesterday I distributed 5 care packages and have plans to assemble another 2-4. All care packages included toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, deodorant, band-aids, fem hygiene (except the one guy, obviously). A few of them got toothbrushes, Tylenol/Excedrin and cereal. The winners so far are:

Candidate A:  Maribel, the 34yo single mother of 6-8 kids (still trying to get an exact number) who lives in the Bronx. I almost nixed her for owning a Sidekick but am very glad I didn’t. She has a severe speech impediment – she sounds like a deaf person, but she’s not so I’m guessing she’s got a deformity in her palate or no tongue or something along those lines. Anyway, communicating by phone would be frustrating and nearly impossible for her. She’s very skinny and tired-looking, but had a lot of spirit. She came with her two youngest, about 2 and 4 years old. The father of all the kids walked out and doesn’t provide a penny of support. I gave her a rather large package, though I thought she “only” had 4 kids, so now it doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough. After making the trek down from the Bronx, she took my advice and wheeled the little ones to the awesome adventure playground at the south end of Central Park and texted me to rave about the sprinklers, soft play surface, and clean restrooms/changing tables. So we have plans to repeat the experience next week so I can pass on some school supplies and additional toiletries.

Candidate E:  Jean, the 39yo homeless man who lives in a shelter. He just ducked into the Starbucks where I planted myself for half an hour, asked for his bag of goodies, and went back outside to his pile of small backpacks. I guess the shelter isn’t one of the ones that provides storage lockers. The man needs a new t-shirt, his was filthy, but he was softspoken and not particularly weird.

Candidate K:  Jessie, the 21yo working three jobs and barely making rent. Of all of them, she came closest to tears. She does overnight nannying for an infant, and his parents (hospital doctors) never come home on time. She got 2 hours of overtime cash-in-hand rather than having to wait for payday, which was a huge deal for her – she had $10 in the bank. Instead of finishing at 9am this morning, she finished at 4pm and after collecting her bags from me, was off to another job. Been there, done that, hope to never have to do that again. She said she’d help with my internet printable coupon needs once her roommate gets ink for the printer. I reassured her that the care package was no-strings, and told her to drop me a line when she starts running low on things.

Candidate L
“Hello! My name is Andrea. I’m a single living in Brooklyn. I would like to give you some background: I’m still going to school(Long Island University Brooklyn Campus) so I’m low on funds.. I recently gave away some groceries on craigslist (a friend of mine is a chef-they cooked for the weddn reception in my kitchen-left tons of food so I gave a couple bags away!)and I’m interested in getting your package because I need the deoderant, toothbrush/paste, mouth wash, I could use the bandaids(they cut themselves cooking and used most of mine up) shampoo/conditioner (I’m a brunette)and the feminie hygeine stuff.. so whatd ya say?? help me out?”

Honestly, I didn’t think she sounded like the neediest and picked her on the principle that one good turn deserves another, and I’ve got a lot of bandaids. Well, I was wrong – she was quite needy. She sat with me in Starbucks for about 20 minutes and I got to hear about how she’s a recent college grad in a tough job market, she uses internet at the library, told me all about how the various food pantries in the city operate from her experiences searching for one that you didn’t have to line up at 3 hours before it opened and then only got a can of beans, a can of tomatoes and a bag of rice after showing ten forms of ID. I invited her up to my apartment to pick out a few boxes of cereal, and she seemed to feel guilty taking more than one.

Candidate M
“Still available? i’m a pretty broke grad student trying to get by and skimming wherever possible, which comes to food and basic health products. help a girl out! let me know if you still have one”

She wasn’t as “needy” as the others, but was nevertheless very appreciative. She’s also the most recent “victim” of the same bad cheap shampoo that everyone else complains about – it gave two people some form of dandruff/dryness and even the shelter kids remarked that it just didn’t get their hair clean. And just as I was thinking that maybe I was dealing with one of those people who used the term Broke Student a bit liberally, I brought up the possibility of coupon printing and she said she’d be happy to help in a couple of weeks when school started, because she didn’t have a printer. Hm, not even a $50 inkjet (that of course costs $50 to replenish with ink – don’t you hate that?). My point in mentioning all this is that I was sort of expecting her to be not terribly in need, but while she wasn’t as badly off as the others, she was farrrr from flush.

My next two care packages are going to two daughters who are taking care of their mothers: a barely-pregnant 20yo who’s helping her 47yo mother recover from a stroke, and a 42yo daughter helping her 62yo diabetic mother. And on a purely selfish note, I’m delighted with the reclaimed space in my apartment – it was starting to look a bit, you know, Sanford & Son.

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13 Responses

  1. I find your drugstore games and now you recent creative personalized charity very awesome. 🙂 What a generous hobby you have!

  2. I just think you’re awesome and your efforts are totally inspiring. Keep it up!

  3. I really admire you for documenting this process so honestly – many people shy from this kind fo direct-service or face-to-face charity/giving because of fear of “OTHER”, but as you’ve found, there is commonality and sameness among all the individuals and families you’ve met/helped. And I really appreciate that you identify so strongly with the varying situations these people are experiencing. and thereby reminding us, that ‘but for the grace of whomever, go I’ – one of my granny’s favorite sayings – and she was a missionary in Appalachia in the 30’s & 40’s so she had perspective on poverty. (whomever is my replacement, btw)

  4. This is amazing! You have inspired me!

  5. Gawd, I feel like such a lazy housewife until I start my new job.

    No, wait. Actually, I am worried that my new job will always make me feel the way these posts do. You are such a good, trusting, well-meaning person.

    • So my posts make you feel lazy, and you’ve taken a job that’s going to make you feel lazy? I hope you’re reading my blog because you enjoy it, Dog!

  6. Your couponing generosity is amazing….I tend to clip coupons that I have no need for/no intention of using, but it seems like you’re really good at scoring extra deals….if it’s not too creepy, I’d be willing to keep my eyes open for coupons you could use for your charitable work and send them your way. I don’t see a contact link on your blog, but you can reach me at negativenetworth (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested!

    • A couple of my blog readers help me with good coupons from time to time – the inserts in NYC are “reduced”, so I often don’t get anything by Colgate-Palmolive (Colgate, SpeedStick, Softsoap, etc- very short expiration dates on those, grr), Unilever or General Mills.

      I will definitely drop you a line shortly – I’m actually compiling a list of the printable coupons I can really put to good use! And generally speaking, any coupons for deodorant, shampoo/hair care, toothpaste/brushes, fem hygiene, Kellogg’s, and pretty much anything by Unilever (Ragu, Skippy, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Knorr, etc).

  7. Wow, you are a great person! Glad you commented on my site so I could find yours…

    If you ever check in with the hard of hearing woman you might be able to save her some money. My brother was getting KILLED by T-Mobile (he had a side kick) and then I found him a plan made for deaf people from sprint:

    http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/cell-phone-service-for-people-who-are-hard-of-hearing-or-are-deaf/

    • Maribel is very clearly a “welfare mom”, and I think it’s a fair guess that she is being provided with her Sidekick service either through a gov’t program or a charity. With so many children, I don’t question the necessity of this gadget! But if it comes up in conversation and it turns out that I’m wrong, I’ll definitely direct her towards that Sprint service. Thanks!

  8. I’m glad this first round turned out well. As always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help! My focus is a bit scattered these days, and it’s been rough on the RA front, but I’d feel better if I was giving you a hand.

  9. This is really awesome of you to do it. I just wonder how many people actually check on Craigslist or know how to, you know?

    Nevertheless, what an awesome example!

    • Well, Craigslist is just one big community bulletin board and amongst the top 10 sites on the Internet. I’m not sure where else would be more efficient! I have found people to give stuff to on Freecycle, including one fairly desperate couple (he has since found a job, so no follow-up on the cards), but most of them don’t fall into the “needy” category. I’ve seen people post pleas for assistance, and then when I’ve replied with my offer, they’re painfully grateful to hear from someone who doesn’t anonymously abuse them, e.g. “I’ll give you $30 for (sex act)”, or “You should have kept your legs closed and not had kids in the first place”. Most are even more nervous about meeting me than I am about meeting them!

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