Blessing Bags Give Homeless Patients Access to Basic Personal Care Items

July 21, 2021
Blessing bags

Tia Edgar, RN, still remembers the one patient who prompted her to create what she calls blessing bags.


He was homeless, living in a camp in the woods in Wilmington. He had spent a few days in the hospital in fall 2020 and Edgar was walking him out after he had been discharged.


“I just walked him downstairs and said, ‘Okay, bye,’” said Edgar, who is a nurse on the seventh floor progressive care unit. “I felt like I had failed him. I’m here as a nurse to leave him better than how I found him, to make his transition back to what he calls home a little easier.”


The patients Edgar and her team see in the progressive care unit are very sick. They don’t need intensive care, but they are total care patients. Many are on tube feeds or are recovering from a stroke. Sending them back into the world equipped with nothing felt wrong, Edgar said.


So Edgar decided to create blessing bags. She remembered that the heel lift boots her department got for non-mobile patients came in nice mesh drawstring bags that the nurses normally threw away. She could save those, she thought, and collect a few personal care items to put in them: deodorant, sunscreen, bandages, and lip balm, among other things. That way, the next time she had a patient who would be going back to a home where they couldn’t access many of these basic things most of us take for granted, she would be able to help.


In addition to the hygiene and personal care items in the bag, Edgar included a “street sheet,” a page listing local resources that homeless people can use. It includes details for where to access free medical care, where to get a hot meal or bag lunch, and where to take a shower or do laundry.


Creating the bags is Edgar’s way of embodying the concept of “blessed to be a blessing.” Edgar received the Hendrix Family Scholarship two years in a row to help pay for her education as a nurse at Brunswick Community College.


“Now, it’s time for me to help,” she said.


Since first dreaming up the idea, Edgar and her teammates on the floor – and volunteers from churches and other groups in the community – have gathered enough items to create more than 50 bags to give to patients throughout the hospital. Edgar said they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.


If you’d like to help Edgar stuff bags, email her at [email protected]. Want to make a cash donation to purchase items to fill the bags? Make a gift to the NHRMC Foundation’s Healthy Community Fund here.


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