After Toni Long’s husband passed away, she felt like she had too much time on her hands. A normal trip to the fabric store would turn into a beautiful endeavor to serve the community and focus on children during a time of great need.
While shopping with her daughter for crafting materials, a woman asked Long if she could sew. When she replied yes, she was invited to become a part of creating what would soon be known as Bags of Love. Five years later, Long is still creating special bags for children while they are displaced from their homes whether in foster care or sometimes homeless.
“I love children,” Long said. “There’s a big need to help children who are taken out of their homes. They have nothing.”
Her job is not easy, but she finds it rewarding. According to Long, each bag has a beautiful homemade quilt in it which requires lots of time. Some days, Long will spend eight to nine hours a day just on the sewing alone. In addition to the quilt, the bags contain toiletries according to age, toys or games and a stuffed animal that sticks its head out of the bag.
To create the final product, much preparation goes into the process before the bags are delivered. Once complete, the bags are taken to foster agencies or homeless shelters such as CASA and Oasis.
“I love sewing and love knowing that we are making children happy with all of the things in the bag,” Long said.
Those who contribute to Bags of Love often hear about the children’s reactions to the gift and how they enjoy having something of their very own. According to Long, the ladies that share their time are a group of women that have become like family and equally share the passion to help kids feel like they are loved.
“We love what we do, and when we run out of toys, materials, personal care items or any other things we need, someone always pulls through to donate to us,” Long said.
Since everything is donation based, Bags of Love is representative of a community coming together to take care of one another. Working as a team, some members load bags, some help sew and another is currently being trained to help with the blankets.
“I just want to make children happy and put a smile on their face,” Long said. “They have been through so much. Jesus loves the little children — he wants us to take care of them.”
For more information or to donate, visit Bags of Love on Facebook.