Kate Eldridge holding some of the items she includes in the care packages.

By Gwen Rollings

We have all seen them, individuals standing by stop lights on busy highways, sitting around shopping centers or walking back and forth at intersections. These strangers to passing motorists hold various size cardboard signs with similar words essentially asking for the same thing: help.

These situations are most uncomfortable at red lights when motorists are confronted by sign holders approaching their cars. Although Americans intrinsically believe in helping people in need, the conundrum lies in determining if it’s even appropriate to help a stranger standing by the road and holding a sign, especially if we’re not certain that the need is legitimate.

Kate Eldridge, a recent graduate of Newsome High, was confronted with this situation, and this is what she decided, “I have always seen everyone who would stand on the side of the road asking for donations but felt so bad because I never had anything to give. There’s a guy who holds a sign by Chick-fil-A that says ‘Anything will help.’ While I would usually give him an order of food from there, it seemed like I could do more.”

The “more” that Eldridge decided was to organize care packages for distribution to those in need, living on the streets or experiencing hard times. These care packages would include socks, T-shirts, masks, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brushes, feminine products, body wash, toilet paper, water, body cleansing wipes, Band-Aids, hand sanitizer and mouthwash.

Eldridge started buying things to make 15 care packages when others learned of her idea and wanted to help. She said, “I have had a really positive reaction to help me make these care packages. I have gotten a few money donations, but the main help that I have received has been people providing different items from the list I provided. This is going to help big time when making packages.”

Reaching out to organizations like Metropolitan Ministries, Eldridge learned how best to identify, locate and reach out to those in need. Through all those in the Brandon and Tampa areas who volunteered to assist with the care packages, she has discovered there so many others wanting to “do more” than just look the other way at those in need.

Eldridge suggested ways the community can help: sending her locations where those in need can be found, donating to her GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/cm54s7-care-packages-for-the-homeless or providing the items for packages.

For more information, email kateeldridge14@gmail.com.