At-home volunteering: Make heat-relief sacks for the homeless

As temperatures begin to rise again, life on the streets in Phoenix can go from unbearable to deadly. Homeless men, women and children are at high risk daily for severe dehydration and sun exposure.

“What may come as a surprise to people is that dehydration is actually a bigger cause of death compared to cold exposure,” says Norma Carillo, volunteer coordinator at St. Vincent de Paul, which offers services for the homeless among other programs, including medical and dental care for the working poor, charity dining rooms, thrift stores, transitional housing and general assistance for individuals in need.

Families Giving Back has long partnered with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in its efforts to help the poor and homeless. The goal of Families Giving Back is to introduce children and their parents to creative ways they can make a difference and to create volunteer opportunities for families with kids of all ages.

“We welcome younger children who are accompanied by their parents to volunteer at our food warehouse, our dining rooms and in our urban-farm community gardens,” says Carillo, who encourages parents to “plant the volunteering seed” early. “Children who start volunteering at a young age will grow up to remember their experiences; it creates awareness and teaches how they can contribute within their communities.”

homeless, heat relief sacks, water bottles, St Vincent de PaulFor the past two years, Families Giving Back has been helping St. Vincent de Paul with heat-relief sacks that Carillo says help save lives. The “packs” actually are tube socks filled with water bottles, Band-Aids and a snack — essentials for enduring summer on the streets.

Heat-relief sacks are a great at-home volunteering project. Other ways your family can help this summer include donating water, bandanas, hats, sunscreen, socks, shoes, underwear and hygiene products to St. Vincent de Paul.

How to assemble heat-relief sacks for the homeless:

  • Purchase pairs of long tube socks, bottled water, Band-Aids and/or antibacterial wipes, granola bars or healthy snacks that won’t melt. Take your kids to help shop for these items.
  • Fill one of the socks with a water bottle, snack and first-aid item(s). If you’re making multiple sacks, your kids can organize the items in separate piles and create an assembly line.
  • Once a sock is filled, put the two sock cuffs together and fold one cuff over the other.
  • On a card, write an encouraging note or create artwork. (Find ideas for encouraging notes at Punch a hole in the card, thread a ribbon or string through it and tie it securely around the cuff of the socks.
  • Deliver the heat-relief packs to St. Vincent de Paul, 420 W. Watkins St., Phoenix.

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Heat-relief sack assembly event

From 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 6, Families Giving Back volunteers will assemble heat-relief sacks (including a pair of socks, bottled water, granola bar, first aid item(s) and an inspirational note) at St. Vincent de Paul, 420 W. Watkins St. in Phoenix. St. Vincent de Paul will distribute the heat-relief sacks to the homeless this summer. To register for this event, visit