Thursday, April 2, 2015

CarePax -- Creative Service at its Finest

What do a small, Catholic bookstore, an inner city Episcopal church, a suburban Buddhist temple, a reform Jewish synagogue and a Muslim community center have in common?

Care for their neighbors - that's what.

Each of these institutions has agreed to host a CarePax barrel created at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley, MI. Each barrel contains at least 35 individually-packaged CarePax, which include a warm hat, gloves, hand and toe warmers, a pair of new socks, a snack and a list of metro Detroit area resources for the needy and homeless in the region. Those who visit any of the places above can pick up a CarePax to have in the back seat of their car when they come across someone standing roadside with a sign for help.

Items that fill the CarePax are donated by diverse individuals and groups throughout the tri-county area. Many of the warm items - including hats and scarves - have been made by hand. HatPax is one such item. This pattern for a simple, sewn fleece hat has been picked up by creative sewers all over town. Some people work on their own with scraps of fleece they have lying around. Others gather in groups, pool resources and make dozens of hats in one sitting!

A group from Troy, MI has gotten together twice to make HatPax. The first time they had a group of about ten friends, scissors, patterns, multiple sewing machines and a mound of bright-colored fleece. That first session provided more than 40 hats in one evening and everyone had a grand time. When one of the group members brought the hats over to the Outreach room at Song and Spirit, they noticed that there were big gaps on the shelves that held the dark colored hats and asked Bro. Al what that meant.

“Well,” he replied, “A lot of people who live on the street - or even just spend a lot of time walking around the streets at all hours - don't want to call attention to themselves. When we go to a shelter or do outreach directly to folks on the streets, we've discovered that - when given a choice - the majority choose darker colors like grey, black, brown, navy, or camouflage patterns. They seem to want to blend into their surroundings. It's a safety issue.”


The next time the group got together they had the same great time - making over 50 hats in the dark colors they now KNEW were most needed by the people they would serve! It was as if - somehow - knowing a little more about what the recipient really would like or would choose for themselves, was a great motivator for these creative volunteers.

Thanks to those who are acting as “the hands of God” among us, including Faith at Work Catholic Books & Gifts, Troy; Christ Church Detroit Episcopal; Midwest Meditation Center, Warren; Temple Emanu-El, Oak Park; Islamic Organization of North America (IONA), Warren; Wayne State University, Detroit; the Archdiocese of Detroit central office - and all those generous donors who make creating and caring for those in need such a rewarding occupation.

As we transition to “warm-weather” CarePax, the contents will change, but the need for creative compassion continues.

What's so important about having an Outreach program at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace? We allow everyday people the opportunity to act as the hands of God - and they become people who make a difference in the world.

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