COLUMBIA — The bags were filled with toys, stuffed animals, coloring books and hygiene products — each meant for a child facing a circumstance beyond his or her control.
Eight of these "blessing bags" were donated Tuesday to the Rainbow House, which offers assistance and shelter to children whose families are in crisis, whether that is abuse, neglect or homelessness.
This brought the total number of blessing bags donated this holiday season by four agricultural companies, cattle farmers and rancher volunteers to 30. The companies included Missouri Beef Industry Council staff and board members, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri’s Cattlemen Foundation and Missouri Cattlewomen’s Association.
Kaity Holtman, director of communications for the Missouri Beef Industry Council, said blessing bags started as an idea to help people on the side of the road asking for money or help. Instead of having an office gift exchange, the four employees at the Missouri Beef Industry Council wanted to be able to do something to help.
"When the kids go to these new places, it gives them something they can hold onto and call their own," Holtman said when she was dropping the bags off.
Jan Stock, executive director at the Rainbow House, said a lot of kids that come here don't have anything. Rainbow House usually gives them five outfits of clothing, blankets, toys, books and other things the children can take with them.
Ada Gallup, business manager for the beef council, said the blessing bags are a good way to make sure the Rainbow House is supported.
"We are giving back to the community through their efforts," Gallup said.
During the holiday season, people consider donating to organizations, but Gallup said the Rainbow House goes unrecognized because it is not a national organization, but a local help center, so people might not think of them.
This is the first year for the blessing bags, but in the future the beef council would like to continue to help.
"It's awesome to know each year that we can help them," Gallup said. "We can find out the current needs of the Rainbow House and fill that gap for them."
Chad McMinn, development director for the Rainbow House, said starting in early December through the first week of January, the Rainbow House receives the most donations.
The Rainbow House has three main programs: the Children's Emergency Shelter, Homeless Youth Program and the Regional Child Advocacy Center (CAC). MU, insurance companies and schools hold drives to support the Rainbow House.
McMinn said the amount of time and money donated is amazing.
"I had no idea how much the Columbia community comes together to help a nonprofit organization, it really makes you feel good," he said.
Donations are accepted anytime. When donating you can call ahead, send an email or bring the donations by. On the website you can view a wish list to see which items are needed most.