I don’t think there is anyone who is reading this that isn’t familiar with Valentines Day, a time when we declare love in our romantic relationships. It has gone on to include gifts between parents and their children, card exchanges in classrooms with small parties, and even friends will celebrate their affections for one another.
Recently, the holiday “Sweetest Day” was introduced to me. To be totally honestly, I had not clue what it was about. Being someone who likes to research I took on the task of learning about this holiday. The origins were not quite what I expected. I assumed it was a pre-Valentines Day type thing…. or that it was simply about being intentionally kind to one another. Since I was unfamiliar with it, I assumed it was fairly new and probably one of those made up holidays to increase retail sales. Although I wouldn’t complain if I had the chance to swing by a confectionery for a free gift.
In my research, I learned that it was a midwest thing… being from the south… that explains a lot.
I also learned it goes back to the 1920s and all began out of an act of kindess and compassion toward the “least of these”, the orphans & shut ins from around Cleveland. A local candy store owner gathered friends and families and delivered sweet little gifts to those who were being overlooked, forgotten about, or had fallen on hard times (this was during the depression). The idea stuck, other people starting pitching in, and it spread into neighboring towns, cities, and states.
What an AMAZING idea!
And, since I like to PARTY…. why not invite some friends to join YOU and plan a SWEETEST DAY party. Sweetest Day is the 3rd Saturday in October, so you still have PLENTY of time to plan!
Sweetest Day is on the 17th of October. Consider one of the following party types:
- Prepping Party on the 16th – gather with your friends, put together your sweetest day gift bags, while fellowshiping, munching, and praying over the recipients. Then you (and your family, or your friends) can deliver them to recipients on the 17th.
- Sweetest Day Party on the 17th – perhaps your church could host a fun day at the church of games, activities, food, etc. and invite groups of disadvantaged children from your surrounding neighborhoods to celebrate together
Don’t forget about the kids who are in hospitals or centers that care for children removed from their homes. You can call ahead and plan something with their coordinators to ensure the gifts are approved, and you know how many to plan for.
Or, your heart might be calling you to celebrate with the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There are also the men, women, and youth who are in prisons and detention centers who could use a little extra love and encouragement.
If you are going to have a party, think SWEETS but don’t forget the healthy foods too!
If you are celebrating with friends, you might want to have a more indulgent menu of desserts and treats while you prepare your gifts. However, I am sure that hospitals, nursing homes, children’s centers, and even prisons are not going to be keen on a bunch of junk food! Apple slices with caramel dip are a great balance and still a sweet treat. Don’t forget about your friends who need a little salt with their sweet! Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods are easy, quick, and tasty!
Online retailers, like Family Christian, have items for various age groups and interests.
When putting together gift bags for kids, you may want to consider some of the following ideas: (Click any photo for more options and suggestions)
Velvet Wall Posters, Coloring Books are always kid friendly and enjoyed. Stuffed animals like bears, are a great companion to cuddle into. Sharing the New Testament with kids in an easy to read format, that has colored illustrations, is a wonderful way to share the Gospel with those you are reaching out to.
If you can find out the ages of the children you will be visiting, and gender in some cases, you can also bring a gift of books! It encourages reading, something they can take with them when they move, and with many great Christian titles you can leave them with a gift that will not only be enjoyable but point them toward Christ.
If you are reaching out to the elderly, some great options include:
Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not have Bible available for their residents, and if they do… they are usually ones that are donated from personal libraries or a church has purchased new ones for their pews. This means they are rarely large print Bibles. If the resident brought one with them to the facility, it is possible that it too is not a large print Bible. When speaking with volunteers at a local center, large print Bibles were a top request!
A CD of Hymns might also make a great gift, as most of our older generations grew up on these songs as part of their Sunday worship and even weekly family devotion time.
And never underestimate the joy a few hand drawn pictures from your children, or the ones in your church! Take a collection, I am sure moms have a few they can spare. Or have a party at the center, bring the kids and let them celebrate along side the older generations. Prepare some sing along songs, have crafts on hand to do together, and check with the facility about any dietary restrictions on food brought in.
For Larger Gifting … a simple snack size candy bar, lollipop, or individually wrapped cookies and snack packs can be paired up with tracts. They cover a variety of topics, come in different languages, and there are versions for adults and children too. They are also inexpensive, a pack of 25 tracts can run you less than $3 per pack!
Some additional thoughts, as you consider the least of these:
A trip to a prison, may have much more stringent rules on what you can and cannot bring it. These rules may very from prison to prison. So, you are best to contact them ahead of time and get a list. Due to the number of inmates, you may also want to look for something that you can buy in bulk and give everyone the same thing.
Also keep in mind that addiction recovery centers & mental health care facilities may not allow any outside materials due to the nature of their residents conditions.
If you would like to reach out to women, men, or family shelters (particularly abuse shelters) may ask to pick up your donation to distribute themselves, due to the security and protection of their guests.