Providing hope and nourishment to homeless and low-income populations
I am a web developer at the University of Delaware, the mama of three amazing kids! I love music, movies and books. I'm very passionate about certain topics and so my website reflects all of the aforementioned facets.
Homelessness is on the rise in the United States, according to federal survey data released last month, which said 553,742 people lacked homes on a given night in 2017.
What most people probably are not aware of is that homelessness is very, very undercounted. In Delaware, for example, there is only one night a year in which the number of people on the streets are counted. This one night is called Point In Time (PIT). I don’t know if this is true across the country, but it is quite unnerving. Many homeless are transient, many homeless are not necessarily roofless. Many homeless youth are trafficked, receiving shelter for sex, yes even here in little ol’ Delaware. They will not appear in the head count of homeless people in the state. Hearing the number has grown nationwide, and yet is still significantly lower than actuality, well I find that unnerving.
The 2015 PIT Count in Delaware was conducted January 29, 2015. These people can be in shelters, motels paid by voucher or wandering the streets. On that date, 950 people were homeless in Delaware. Now this is what I know, the school district in which we live has a homelessness advocate who reported that their schools were dealing with 840 homeless families. How can one school district have 840 homeless families and yet the state’s PIT says there are 950 people homeless?
Back to cold spells… if we’re under counting, it makes sense that our shelters have waiting lists and are overwhelmed, right? Something to give thought, I suppose. Nobody should be left in the cold. When we provide people on the street with our 3B bags we include the names, locations and numbers to multiple shelters. We also let them know if it is a “code purple” night which means emergency sanctuary shelters are open to help them.
I think more needs to be done to understand this issue. We are helping with nutritional security and spreading awareness, but while the data is inaccurate, the respources given to foundations assisting will continue to be very low.
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I say, “Merry Christmas.” You may say something else and I respect that, please enjoy, embrace and share your love for the holiday which YOU celebrate. Aren’t our holiday intentions all pretty similar? Winter holidays have much in common in that we celebrate love, life and light.
Winter is colder, darker, bleak, right? That’s why people bring evergreen trees into their home? Evergreen trees are a sign or symbol of everlasting life during a time of year during which much dies, especially in areas of colder climate.
All of this being said, the point of this post is that no matter what holiday you may be celebrating, all of us can benefit from bringing life, love and light into each other’s lives. For Brae’s Brown Bags that means continuing to deliver bags of healthy food to those in need. To make sure we are able to donate handwarmers, socks, coats, gloves, etc. If you drive by bus stops in the morning, knowing how bitter cold it is outside, and you see a child waiting without a hat or without a coat, you have the ability to provide that child with something to keep them warm. If you’re not comfortable stopping and handing the child a coat, then bring gently used coats to your local schools. I promise you they will be used.
Plan time for your family to volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Write a letter to your mail person, the people who pick up your garbage or recycle. Bring a basket of fruit to your community firehouse or police troop. Send a care package overseas to troops who are away from home during the holidays. Visit a nursing home with your kids and bring books to read or pictures that they have colored.
This past weekend, Braeden, my Mom, Finn and Amelia (my two younger kids) took a trip out to Sacred Heart Parish in Chestertown, Maryland. Brae spoke with the group and they ended up packing 85 bags of healthy food, chapsticks, socks and handwarmers for those in need in their local community. It is always a beautiful activity to be a part of and it brought peace into my day. This group was excited to hear from Brae and even more excited to be able to help! That is the best thing about Brae’s Brown Bags, it’s so easy to do and yet it packs a powerful punch.
There are so many ways we can warm hearts, shine light and celebrate life if only we take a moment to do so. When you pass someone during your travels, or even in the office hall, say Happy Holidays, or Merry Christmas, and then add on a compliment, a bit of kindness. This time of year is about sharing good will, so let’s practice just that.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, from all of us at 3B
On Saturday, August 19, 2017 at the Bear-Glasgow YMCA we held our 4th Annual 3B Summer Celebration.
Our theme was “Ohana” and while Braeden was giving his talk to all those in attendance he said, “Part of Hawaiian culture, ʻohana means family. In the movie Lilo says that Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”
He continued, “Ohana means family. All of you are my family. Because if you needed something I would not leave you behind. I would not choose to forget about you. And this isn’t just about the people here for this very awesome event. This extends to any person. To all people.”
Running a non-profit is not easy. Planning a big event, also not easy, but when it all came together and everyone was celebrating, there was an ease about it, because EVERYONE helped, worked together, celebrated with each other. We had so many volunteers decorating, putting pieces of games together, hanging banners, organizing raffles, providing food and entertainment. I am so grateful to every single person. Drew Taylor with 93.7 WSTW was an amazing DJ for the event. He entertained our guests, got involved, came down off the stage and became a part of our 3B family. Jim Berman with the Grain on Main delivered a delicious menu using fresh produce from the University of Delaware farm (UD Fresh to You thank you Mike Popovich and all of your farm interns), complimented by fruit cut up and served by m parents and cookies made by my Aunt Bobbie. The YMCA let us use their outdoor space! All of these people gave their time, their service and their heart to helping make our event the best one yet!
To Laura Nash, Cathy Kinney, the Kim Family, Monica Moriak, the Cerasoli girls, my parents, my in-laws, and to my family who not only helped the day of but also had to put up with me while I planned and stressed and ran around for the last three months. I thank all of you, every single one of you. We couldn’t have done this without your support.
I’ll end with some of Brae’s final words.
“Take your hand and put it on your heart.
Okay. Now close your eyes. Breathe. And feeling it beating.
Maybe mine is beating faster than yours and maybe yours skips a beat sometimes. Now open your eyes. What I want you to do is to live your life in a way that let’s everyone else know that your heart is indeed beating.”
A huge shout out to our sponsors! Armstrong Relocation Company reached out to say they feel what Braeden is doing is amazing, they signed on at the Champion Sponsorship Level! So if you are going to be moving anytime soon please make sure you use their services! Terri, Todd and Kristin Stephan also sponsored the event at the Champion Sponsorship Level. Many, many thanks for their continued support!
Additionally, we would like to thank the National Liberty Museum, Bob and Rose Willey and Greg and Margie Mannering for signing on at the Supporter Level of sponsorship.
“Do More 24 Delaware is a local movement that brings together nonprofit organizations, companies, and people committed to making a difference. Through focused online giving on June 1, 2017, Do More 24 provides the opportunity for people to create solutions to our region’s most difficult social challenges by determining which issues matter most to them and channeling their funding towards tackling those problems.”
Brae’s Brown Bags is a participating organization and we’re thrilled to be one of the MANY organizations in Delaware who are trying to make our state and surrounding states a better place.
Donating $24 or more during the times listed below makes us eligible for additional prizes!
For those of you new to 3B here is our mission statement:
3B Brae’s Brown Bags, founded by 13-year-old Braeden Mannering, provides homeless and low-income populations with access to healthy foods, clean water and contact information for additional services which can aid them. His ongoing mission is not only to feed people today, but to raise awareness about the problems of food insecurity and poverty, and empower and inspire youth across the nation to become part of the solution.
If you support this mission please consider donating $24 today during #DoMore24DE and see if you can match it up to an award time slot! We thank you so much for your support always!
Each year the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources hosts an Ag Day event on campus at the University of Delaware. Since we started 3B Brae’s Brown Bags nearly four years ago we have participated in the event, because food insecurity is directly related to agriculture in so many way. We know there is enough food produced in our country to feed every mouth, we also know that 40% of that food is wasted. If we work together with farmers, growers, producers, places who sell fresh produce, we can help to recover food and make a difference.
This year I was in Texas during Ag Day, but I was on the committee of students who planned the entire event and I am so proud of all they accomplished. The theme was a super hero theme. Farmers and agriculture researchers are definitely super heroes, they have the power to feed the world and protect the planet!
But all of us have the power to be our own super heroes and I see that each and every day when I am working with youth on the 3B mission, when I’m out on the street meeting people who are going through something rocky and can’t find their way out, or when we’re providing our brown bags to shelters and soup kitchens. I have met so many amazing volunteers who are now my personal heroes.
Including my parents who set up the table at Ag Day this year and spent the whole day their being 3B Champions!
For the second year, Brae’s Brown Bags was able to work with the Food Bank of Delaware to co-host a hunger conference that included youth participants. Words really cannot begin to describe how impactful the event is for Braeden and myself. While planning the event takes a lot of time for us, since I work full-time at UD and Brae is a full-time 7th grade student, haha, all of the time and energy and creativity that is poured into this conference is completely worth it! This year we had so many amazing volunteers helping us and I have to say I am humbled that they generously donated a full day to assisting us with the conference, I hope they also found it impactful.
I would like to thank my parents and my in-laws for their help with the conference. Our friend Michele Fidance and Mallory Stratton from the Jefferson Awards Foundation helped out at the legislative letter writing table. My friends Laura Nash and Katie Moore-Hughes for manning the money pit, which is an activity designed by Brae and myself to help teach students about nutrition facts, food access and food affordability. The money pit is one of the activities the students said they enjoyed the most. It requires a team effort, students seek through “food cards” hand made by Brae and myself, they then have to go up to board and see if the foods the picked are nutritious per MyPlate standards and then also see what their cost is per serving. The task is to figure out if a healthy meal can be made for $1.25 since one and a half billion people live on less than $1.25 per day across the world.
Every student had an opportunity to write a letter to a Delaware legislator including our state senators, Senator Carper and Senator Coons, our state house representative, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and Governor Carney. We will be sorting and mailing these letters on the students behalf. We asked the students to provide a return address if they were able. The ages and backgrounds of those who attended were very diverse, we had students in elementary, middle and high school from public, charter and private schools attend from across the state of Delaware.
The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension program provided three of our activity sessions including a healthy food demo, a sustainable gardening demo and a food waste activity named “Food Waste Warriors.” Their assistance with this conference and the energy they put into each session was absolutely remarkable. So many students were surprised to learn that some vegetable regenerate, so you don’t need to throw away those carrot stems.
There were students shocked to learn about the 40% of food wasted in the United States on a regular basis. And I know every student and chaperone who tasted one of the fruit smoothies wanted to get their hands on those recipes, which they were given to take home. Every student who attended left having learned something new and I hope they went home and told their parents all about their day.
The Bear-Glasgow YMCA fitness routine, “Born to Move Youth Fitness Program,” was a smashing success as well. They had kids doing yoga and dancing all in span of 10 minutes. I don’t know how they had the energy to rotate through seven groups of students and get them all pumped up each time, but they did! Their music kept all of us energized and they were very generous to help us pull of a very large mannequin challenge when the adults from the Food Bank’s portion of the event ventured over to take a sneak peek at the “kid track” of the conference.
A man I admire very much, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture with the United States Department of Agriculture, attended and took the time to talk with all of the students, chaperones and volunteers during their lunch break. He spoke about the movie Interstellar. In that movie, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper says, “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.” Dr. Ramaswamy explained that this is happening and that we need to really pay attention to our resources and how we take care of them so we can feed a growing population. He spoke about the need for young minds and innovation, for astronaut farmers 🙂
Of course we also made time to pack 200 brown bags of healthy food for our guests to take home with them so if they see someone in need they have something to give. Or, if they are living in a food insecure household they will have something extra to snack on when they get home.
Last but not least I would be remiss to not thank Juan Castellanos, my dear friend and colleague who took photos throughout the event. His photos are wonderful and I’m thrilled to be able to share them with all of you through our Flickr album. The photos included in this post are all taken by Juan.
While Braeden and I ended 2016 with the flu and pneumonia, we were able to begin 2017 feeling MUCH better and hopeful for a bright new year. Braeden tweeted on New Years saying, “This year let your light shine! Make the choice to believe that 2017 is going to be amazing.” I absolutely love that sentiment. Way to go, Brae!
My other two kids, Finn and Amelia, were able to help me deliver 3B bags to Calvary Baptist Church on Christmas Eve which has become an annual Christmas tradition for us since we started 3B. We provided bags for all of the homeless guests who partook in their Christmas Eve festivities. Thanks to my Aunt Mares we were also able to provide hats, scarves and gloves.
While Brae was sick my sweet Finn really stepped up. At first he didn’t want to leave his Google Santa Tracker, but when I explained that tracking the houses Santa stops at is fun to do. but not everyone has a house. So for those people we get to be Santa! He put on his Santa hat immediately and was ready to go!
It feels so good to be able to play Santa every now and then.
MOT Charter invited Braeden to speak to the 2nd and 3rd graders a few days before Christmas (when he was still healthy). We are absolutely amazed and humbled to report they packed 426 bags! They also donated a car load of books and healthy snacks for us to use in making additional bags.
When we initially walked into the school one of the first things we saw was a showcase that featured Braeden! Of course I had him stand near it so I could take a picture, but honestly, normally you see trophies in cases like this and to see 3B featured felt pretty incredible. The showcase was titled “The Power of One” and it inside were pictures of Brae’s last visit to MOT Charter as well as quotes printed out from Brae’s talk. It definitely helped both of us to feel even more inspired that day. And to see all the great work MOT Charter has done in helping to provide healthy food to those in need in their community via Our Daily Bread and with help from the Jefferson Awards Foundation.
Less than a week prior to the MOT Charter visit we received word that our 3B Ripple at Caravel Academy packed 131 bags! We were able to use some of those bags on Christmas Eve for those in need!
The generosity and compassion I see in these young students overwhelms me with joy. I know it means a great deal to Braeden as well. When he is invited to speak at a school he is always very excited to hear that the kids will ask him after his talk. And as his Mom, I love being able to see him interact with youth and empower them to be involved in what he is doing, but also to dream big with their own ideas on how they can help their community.
So we hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays! We also wish you a new year filled with happiness, love and laughter. Be the light in the world, be the change!
When Braeden heard about the wildfires in Tennessee which left so many people homeless and heartbroken he immediately told me that he wanted to help them like we did with folks in Flint, Michigan and in Louisiana. So we created a care package which includes special 3B bags and sent it to Sevier County, Tennessee! We hope when it arrives that the bags will be given to people in need and that those people will find hope in them. Each bag has a note letting the recipient know there are people in Delaware praying for them.
Brae reached out to make sure the package was received. Three people from the University of Tennessee responded to let us know they were received and very much needed due to the extensive damage caused by the fires.
One of the emails said, “Braeden,
Thank you for thinking of those affected by the fires in Tennessee and sending the gift bags. As Mr. Bruhin said, they were received and in fact we will be distributing them tomorrow to 4-H members and their families who have lost everything in the fires. They arrived on Tuesday [last week], so the timing is perfect. They are a great fit with some of the other gifts we are sharing with Sevier County 4-H members.
Thank you again for thinking of us and thank you for serving others in this way.
For those of you wondering how you can help please check out this CNN page:
A couple weeks ago Braeden had an opportunity to meet several resident advisors from Residence Life and Housing at the University of Delaware. He was given the chance to talk with them about Brae’s Brown Bags and about how he thinks we can all really make big positive changes in the world if we work together. We had a bunch of technical glitches and my other two kids, Finn and Amelia, joined us for the outing which is not our typical program. However, I think the unusual moments made the evening all the more amazing.
This group of UD students were all incredibly kind people who treated all of us like we belonged. Which made it no surprise to hear Braeden tell them he hopes to go to the University of Delaware for college someday. We’ll see, as I know when he gets older he might start thinking about going somewhere not so close to home. Although as a Blue Hen alum myself of course I want him to go to UD.
The group packed 120 bags of healthy food for the Newark community. Many of the bags included new socks thanks to youth at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Odessa, Delaware who donated several bags of socks to 3B in late October.
Earlier in November Braeden also made a trip to The College School at the University of Delaware. He was able to talk with two sessions of kids who were a little bit younger than him, but he told them he started 3B when he was just 9 years old and they seemed pretty excited to hear that information. The kids asked a lot of great questions and wanted to know more about where Braeden has visited over the last few years. He let them know that aside from the Radio Disney Music Awards his other favorite visits have been at the White House.
The College School kids are an official 3B Ripple. Last year they packed hundreds of bags for those in need in Newark and this year they plan to do more!
Another one of our 3B Ripples with the Circle of Friends Daycare packed 70 bags of healthy food prior to their Thanksgiving break. This is our youngest group which just goes to show that you can make a difference even in diapers! Thank you so much to “Small Hands, Big Hearts” your ripple makes us very proud!
One more thing to let you know is that today is Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a day to take a a break from the searching out the best deals for holiday shopping to support causes that means the most to you. With your support Brae’s Brown Bags has been able to grow a great deal since 2013 and we are so grateful! [ Donate to 3B ]
We have been able to visit dozens of schools and attend various forums and conferences so Braeden can share his ideas about nutritional security and what can be done to fix it. We have also been able to provide over 8,000 bags of healthy food to those in need in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Louisiana. We even were able to send 20 cases of clean water to Flint, Michigan during their water crisis.
With your help we will be able to continue supporting other hunger relief programs and organizations as well as do our best to educate youth about what they can do to make a difference. Thank you! #GivingTuesday