Man creates new donation boxes initiative for homeless
ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — To show local homeless people the general public does care about them, a Rochester man has kick-started a new initiative he says is quickly yielding strong results.
Rob Gagnon created “I See You” last week, gathering donations to make supply boxes for people in need. He said the boxes’ survival supplies and food aren’t the primary part of the initiative, but rather a way for him to send an intimate message when he personally delivers the boxes.
“I don’t see a granola bar keeping somebody alive,” said Gagnon, 48, a machinist at Turbocam in Barrington. “I see this as a means of providing a comfort to somebody in a bad situation, as a psychological kind of help that shows them there are people who care.”
Gagnon said he started making the boxes because he feels there are too many people in the region who “turn a blind eye” to their struggling neighbors.
“One of the things homeless people say is they feel invisible,” Gagnon said, echoing sentiments that many homeless people relayed to Foster’s while the paper reported its special “Homeless on the Seacoast” series. “They don’t think people care. That’s what I See You is about. I get to shake their hand, look them in the eye and tell them somebody cares. Regardless of how they got where they are ... they’re people. If you can give them even the smallest bit of hope, maybe they won’t give up and will try even that smallest bit harder.”
I See You was inspired by the similar, Manchester-based “Boxes of Love for the Homeless,” as well as other forms of outreach that social service agencies are providing on the Seacoast.
Gagnon said he was also inspired by the depression he’s struggled with during his life, as well as a post that a resident made in a local Facebook flea market page to offer their labor in exchange for propane canisters.
“The post went on to talk about how they were homeless,” said Gagnon. “I had just gotten paid and had $15 left over from the previous week. That’s a no brainer - why couldn’t I help them? I contacted them, and coincidentally I found out they’re living in the woods a mile away from my house.”
Gagnon said the positive feedback he received while helping that family touched him in a way he’ll never forget, as did the feedback he received when he delivered the first I See You boxes this past Wednesday.
The boxes have included Mylar blankets, hand warmers, non-perishables, rocks with hand-painted inspirational sayings, and other things. Gagnon hopes to add resource lists and other items to the boxes to help connect recipients with other forms of assistance.
Gagnon is using Amazon wish lists to solicit supply donations. The list can be accessed by clicking the “Donate” button on I See You’s Facebook page at bit.ly/ISeeYouRochester.
According to Gagnon, he’ll photograph the recipients and share their stories on I See You’s Facebook page whenever they’re comfortable with it. He said he hopes that’ll help raise the community’s overall consciousness of issues related to homelessness, as well as rally more people behind solutions.
“They’re people, and they’re cold,” he said. “If you can help them, help them.”
Information from: Foster’s Daily Democrat, http://www.fosters.com