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What's in a Winter Emergency Kit?

This guest blog was written by Stephanie Overbey, a volunteer for Willis Dady Homeless Services. Are you interested in writing a guest blog for Willis Dady? Fill out a volunteer application online at and reach out to Sierra at or by phone at 319-362-7555 to learn more.

According to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than 2,600 individuals in Iowa who live on the streets. If you are looking for a way to make a direct impact, and help a fellow Iowan in need, then you should consider making emergency kits for the homeless. Emergency kits are not only a great way to show you care, but in some cases, they could help save a life. Before you get started, keep in mind your emergency kits should be lightweight, durable, and waterproof. The essential items to include are: 1. Warm socks 2. Knit hat 3. Cold weather gloves 4. Water bottle (collapsible bottles are space-saving) 5. Small first aid kit 6. Lip balm 7. Rain poncho (or waterproof tarp) 8. Protein bars (or other nutritional snacks) 9. Wet wipes 10. Hand sanitizer 11. Hygiene items 12. Nail clippers

There are lots of options for emergency kit bags including backpacks, ditty bags, or fanny packs. You can separate items into categories like foot care (socks and moleskin for instance), food, and hygiene by placing them in resealable plastic storage bags. You can also personalize your emergency kits by adding an inspirational note, a small notepad and pencil, or a crocheted heart to connect with the people you are reaching out to.

It is up to you to decide how you want to fund your project. Start by deciding how many emergency kits you will make and create your budget. If you can pay for the project yourself, then you are ready to get started! There are many options for getting the support you need for your kits such as starting a social media campaign, requesting donations from your community, or partnering with an organization or club you are involved with. Many businesses provide monetary grants or merchandise donations for community projects – it never hurts to ask!

If you do opt to receive donations from your neighbors or community, it is important to have guidelines. Donations should be new, sealed, and in the package. You may also want to include specific brands, sizes or colors of items depending on your kits. Social media is a great way to reach out to friends, family, and businesses who want to help. Facebook is a good platform to provide information and thank those individuals and companies who have contributed to your project.

Emergency kits can be put together by individuals, families, or groups. You can work with your kids and teach them empathy and community stewardship at the same time. It is also a great activity for teens and seniors who want to help. You can make it an event by inviting the community to participate, while using it as a forum to discuss ways to help end homelessness. However you decide to craft your emergency kits, your end result will be valued by people in the Cedar Rapids area who need them most.

Once your emergency kits are assembled, you will need a way to distribute them. While some people may opt to hand them out personally to individuals living on the street, there is another method. Willis Dady is a great way to get your emergency kits to the people who need them quickly and efficiently. The process is easy: just contact Sierra Pope at or call 319-362-7555 to let Willis Dady know how many kits you want to donate, then arrange a time to drop them off. Your donations and hard work will impact your community in a positive way.



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