9-year-old’s ‘bags of love’ help homeless get back on their feet

Mayor Carolyn Mirek and Deputy Mayor Janice Snyder of South Windsor, Connecticut, chat with Tiernan Cabot about Hartford Bags of Love. Photo courtesy of Mark Cabot

A Christmas Day conversation with a homeless man on the streets of Hartford, Connecticut, got 9-year-old Tiernan Cabot thinking how he could help people in such straits help themselves.

He consulted with his family — parents Mark and Renugaa and 5-year-old brother Aakhil — and the result is Hartford Bags of Love, a service that gives those down on their luck such items as toothbrush and paste, mouthwash, deodorant, socks, granola bars and a water bottle.

“One of the biggest hindrances to obtaining a job by the homeless population is not having basic needs to look presentable for an interview,” reads the mission statement at www.hartfordbagsoflove.com.

“Our goal is to provide ‘bags of love’ full of basic essentials, sustenance, and clothes to the less fortunate. These bags that we put together will help them care for their personal hygiene in hopes they will be able to obtain a job and get their life back in order.”

The Christmas encounter came about because the Cabots, who live a few miles east in South Windsor, participate in a meal laid out every Sunday — whatever the weather — in Hartford’s Bushnell Park, the nation’s oldest publicly funded park.

People bring food, as they’ve been doing faithfully for 30 years, and whoever wants to partake is welcome to do so. “So it’s not so much serving food,” which would require a permit, “to the homeless as it is sharing a meal together,” says dad Mark Cabot.

“And Hartford is the only one left in Connecticut because the police actually stood up for them. When the health department shut down the others, Hartford said there’s nothing wrong with this and they’ve been allowing them to stay. You’ll hear this drum, and the homeless people on the other side of the park will hear it and will be there.”

Such generosity of spirit sparked something in Tiernan Cabot, and through him the hundreds of people who donate money and the dozens who assemble and disburse his charity’s “bags of love.”

“We started it as a little family thing in Bushnell Park, and we put things about it on Facebook and more people started getting interested,” he told The American Bahá’í. “And eventually the whole town was helping out.”

Sometimes the assembly line gears up in a large space such as the library, other times in someone’s home. Individuals keep bags in their cars to hand out to homeless people they spot. The Hartford Police Department also requested 450 bags.

What’s next? Keep doing what they’ve been doing, says Tiernan. “And hopefully, someday we can do something like tiny homes” for the homeless.

The rising fifth-grader with an interest in musical theater — he’s looking forward to getting onstage with CAST children’s theater in nearby Manchester — also talks up Hartford Bags of Love wherever he goes.

Tiernan had just come back from Camp Green Acre at the Green Acre Bahá’í School in Eliot, Maine, when he was interviewed. “There, we talked about my charity and how everybody can help, and we learned many different virtues that I realized we could use in our charity.”

And so it spreads. Including to Texas and Florida, where Hartford Bags of Love recently sent several boxes of items to help hurricane victims.


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