A “Do Good” Grant
Last Monday, we started our day with this email from our friends J. Money and the Rockstar Finance team:
“So we’re looking for 20 bloggers who can take $100 each and then turn it into some joy and happiness for someone in their lives who really needs it. It could be a person, group of people, a cause you strongly believe in – or even something relating to your blog community. The only rule is that you have to use it TO DO GOOD, and then you have to blog about it before Christmas. You can be as creative or not as you want!”
Volunteering is a big part of our new lives. We spend lots of time lending a hand with arts organizations in Denver. It’s not completely altruistic as there are often nice perks. It can also be rewarding to give back when all you receive is a nice feeling.
Throughout Amy’s entire adult life, she’s been feeding the homeless. Maybe there’s a tray of leftover catered sandwiches after a meeting and she’ll take it to distribute to those in need. She buys packaged crackers for the car to hand out at stop lights. She’s coordinated events for our family so we can feed homeless families or runaway teens.
Amy read the email announcement and responded without asking me. We had agreed to hold off on any new plans or commitments until January 3rd. I think she was surprised when I was on board 100%.
She offered to feed homeless people in Denver. A few hours later, we were notified that our plan was selected and $100 was our inbox. They don’t fool around at Rockstar Finance.
Monday (December 11)
Commit to finish our project and to write a blog post about it by Christmas
Plan the menu and shopping list
Share our excitement about the project – a local friend offers to bake all the cookies we’ll need
Visit 3 stores to buy items at the best price
Grill 9 pounds of chicken breast and make chicken salad
Assemble 45 chicken salad sandwiches, wash apples, load up car
Meet cookie-baking friend who mentioned it to another friend who sent MORE cookies along
Find 45 people who look as though they may be homeless and hungry in Denver and feed them
Buying / Shopping for Food
Thoughts of massive quantities of PB&J sandwiches were momentary. Not special enough. Maybe, some good-quality meat from our deli? Too expensive.
Since we don’t buy or eat those things, we decided upon a yummy homemade grilled chicken salad we would enjoy ourselves. Why not shop for ingredients like we would for our own household? Finding affordable groceries and cooking at home are things that we’ve embraced in our FI life. It’s not a chore for us. It’s actually something we enjoy doing!
We visited 3 different grocery stores since each had sale items and better deals on different things.
A few FRUGAL TIPS needs to be inserted here:
- At the register, 2 of the 3 packages of chicken rang up at double the cost. ALWAYS look at the prices you’re charged. Often, there is an error.
- The organic apples were on sale and much cheaper than conventional apples. Compare prices.
- We used a free store discount card to get the sale price. Make sure you have any digital coupons loaded on your account beforehand. Be sure to use the card when you pay.
- Costco is not always cheaper. Sometimes it is, but it helps to shop around.
Costco – $15.01
4 loaves of bread (better quality)
Sprouts – $14.07
Chicken Breasts (8 pounds) on sale
King Soopers – $21.25
Organic Apples on sale
Grapes on sale
Oranges on sale
Our total grocery spend came in at $50.33
From past experience, the homeless tend to spread out along a main thoroughfare in Denver. We assumed 45 meals would put us in the $100 range and we knew that it would take a bit of searching to find 45+ folks along our planned route.
Since we were only halfway to our targeted spending and it was such a cold day, we opted to provide a dollar along with each meal for a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Preparing the Meals
The only food we needed to cook was the chicken breasts. The day after we purchased the ingredients we had a beautiful, warm day in Colorado. So, we grilled the chicken, let it cool and made a huge batch of chicken salad.
We made the sandwiches at the last minute so they didn’t get soggy. It took us about an hour to assemble 45 sandwiches and packaged them into individual bags. With the fruit washed and tags removed, we were off to Denver for our delivery. A quick stop at the bank for 50 $1 bills and we were ready.
Feeding the Homeless
When our friends found out about our project they jumped in to bake 150 cookies. 3 cookies to a bag gave us roughly 50 bags of Christmas cookies. They decided to join us for our delivery and off we went to deliver the food that filled our car’s trunk.
We chose not to take any photos of the delivery out of respect for privacy.
With Tim as the driver, the 3 of us tuned our vision to seek out homeless people. It was a very chilly day and some were tucked behind buildings where they might find some warmth from a vent and protection from the wind. There were several couples and no children.
Our small group hopped out of the car every block or so with arms filled. We reached out to people who had their belongings with them. Many carried sleeping bags. Often, people would approach us asking if we had food to give. Our interactions were so positive and the people we served were incredibly grateful. We had no trouble finding people to accept what we had to provide.
As we gave each person a dollar with their meal, we soon realized that the money drew a larger and different crowd so we changed the plan after 8 people.
Back at home, we learned that feeding the homeless may come with some controversy. We believe we were able to positively impact the lives of 45 hungry people. Yes, there are more efficient ways to accomplish delivering food to people in need. Bringing people into a facility that has additional resources (beyond food) could offer benefits alongside a meal. We were able to spread love to people that not only need food, but people that benefit from a personal, simple, kind gesture. The community was appreciative of the food and we were happy to help people who were outside in Denver on a day that included snow and nighttime temperatures in the teens.
An Ongoing Commitment to Help the Homeless
Amy and I have volunteered at a homeless shelter in Denver in the past and we plan to be more engaged with this group in the New Year. We’ll also be making and delivering meals with some more regularity in 2018.
$42 is left from our grant. In January and February, we’ll do it again on a smaller scale and we’ll spend the money on those groceries.