|Kevin Bitar (left) with Michael McRoskey are helping the homeless one Red Bag at a time|
|Chef Hanis Cavin|
|Arts writer James Chute|
JUNIORS HELP THE HOMELESS, ONE RED BAG AT A TIME
By Alexander Danilowicz, The Augustinian, St. Augustine High School
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the campus student newspaper, The Augustinian. Juniors Michael McRoskey and Kevin Bitar have teamed up outside the classroom to change the lives of the homeless, one bag at a time. In 2010 Michael McRoskey founded The Red Bag Inc., a non-profit corporation devoted to providing material and spiritual nourishment to those who need it most. Kevin joined the project in August 2012, acting as The Red Bag's Director of Ambassadors.
What is a Red Bag? Inside is an energy bar, bottled water, raisins, trail mix, beef jerky, chewing gum, and a hand wipe, all packed into one reusable, recyclable, and waterproof drawstring bag For $5 you get a care package of essentials to have at the ready in your car to distribute to a homeless person. Michael and Kevin encourage everyone who purchases a red bag to add a personal note or prayer, as well as toiletries, warm socks, fruit or a blanket. Have you ever felt compassion for a beggar on the street, but were reluctant to give money that might be abetting substance abuse? If so, then Red Bag is a good alternative to cash.
"By keeping a Red Bag in your car, you will be equipped with a kit that makes it easy to help our neighbors in need. Instead of giving cash that may feed an addition or bad habit, you're providing the gift of encouragement and nutrition in a way that treats our neighbors with dignity and respect," said Michael.
It all started three years ago, during Michael and Kevin's freshman year. The concept behind The Red Bag was inspired by St. Augustine High School teacher Tom Cudal during Honors English I class' downtown homeless service project. After handing our sack lunches for a mere 15 minutes, all of the class' prepared food was allocated without even covering a city block.
"What would Jesus do? Well, whatever he would do, Michael and Kevin are getting it done," said Mr. Cudal, who has been organizing the service project for the past three years. San Diego had the third largest homeless population of any American metropolitan area in 2012, surpassed by only New York City and Los Angeles.
"Homeless people aren't new to any of us--I had seen them on street corners and off my freeway exit--but something about seeing them so hungry and so thankful sparked an idea. What if anyone could do what my class did? And so the Red Bag began," said Michael.
Since its inception, the Red Bag has sold more than 1,500 bags. After its first two years of operations and countless hours of hard work, the Red Bag was granted official non-profit status in August, 2012.
"It's going really well," said Kevin. In an effor to get their local community involved, Michael and Kevin speak at youth groups, local organizations and businesses in the area. Additionally The Red Bag has its own social media campaign to reach beyond San Diego.
Michael and Kevin encourage students to like The Red Bag on facebook and to visit www.red-bag.org for more information. You can purchase Red Bags individually or in bulk from the website.
"Red Bag was founded on the principle that a small act of kindness can change lives--one person at a time," said Michael.
Research assistance for this article was provided by Stephanie Castillo.