Friday, September 18, 2015

Small Bag, Big Difference

Viper Employee Selflessly Demonstrates 
Giving to the Poor Doesn't Require Being Rich

Bill Gates topped The Philanthropy 50 as America's top giver in 2014 with a sizable contribution of $1.5 billion in Microsoft stock. His donations through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been felt in a number of critical need areas around the world, including fighting hunger, providing vaccinations, and improving education.

Ms. Darlene Cross, a custodian at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School, proves that you don't have to be a billionaire to make a difference in the lives of others. Her giving is focused on providing people in need with basic necessities to function.

At Space Coast, she helps maintain a clean, healthy, and safe campus for students to thrive. "I love it here," she said. "Kids are great. Faculty is great. Everybody is nice. Everybody is good to each other. It's hard to find that."

In her free time, Ms. Cross has found a unique way to make life better for the less fortunate.

"The main purpose of Gap Bag is to try to help people in need," said Ms. Cross. "Not everybody can afford to go out and buy. I heard about Gap Bag on a website called FreeBeeez in Need on Facebook. It helps match up people who are in need of things with people who have certain items they are willing to give."

The way Gap Bag works is one person will fill a bag with items they no longer use and then hand the bag off to a person in need. The person in need will take from the bag what will help them and then add to the bag items they no longer need before handing the bag off to another person in need. And on and on the cycle of giving goes.

A Titusville resident, Ms. Cross did some research and realized there was not a Gap Bag program set up in the area. "So I started out with a collection of personal things I didn't need anymore like clothes, shoes, and other items around the house. I also collected some things my son wasn't using anymore. Then I put together a Gap Bag to give to someone in need."

"On the website, there are a list of people who need certain things. I instant-messaged the first person on the list and set up a meet with them. We met up at a local store and I gave them the bag. The recipient took what they needed from the bag I gave them, then they added to the bag items they didn't need anymore and contacted the next person on the list to give to them. It just keeps going."

Like a 'Need a Penny? Take a Penny. Have a Penny. Give a Penny' sign at a convenience store, the premise of Gap Bag is brightening someone else's life doesn't have to involve Microsoft stock; the only prerequisite to participate is the willingness to give whatever you can to help others.

Sometimes the impact Ms. Cross is making hits close to homeor close to work. "There was actually one woman who was on FreeBeeez in Need who needed a pair of shoes for her son. He attends school here. I had a pair to offer. So I messaged her and turned over four big bags of things I put together for her family. She took the bags home, went through them, took the things she needed, and then added some items of her own before passing on the bags to other people in need."

What is it like knowing she is making life better for the disadvantaged? "It feels good," said Ms. Cross. "It feels like I have a purpose. I know what it was like to need and not have. People helped me and I know how good that felt. I like being able to do something for people without them feeling like they have to do something in return."

The Gap Bag movement Ms. Cross started in Titusville is gaining momentum in Brevard with Gap Bags popping up in Merritt Island, Rockledge, Viera, and other local areas. With each Gap Bag that exchanges hands, life becomes a little easier for people in need.

Ms. Cross may not be as financially rich as Bill Gates, but she is certainly making life richer for people who need it the most.

Stay current with Space Coast Jr./Sr. High at Space Coast Edline.

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