Lifelong best friends Shannon Villanueva and Stephanie De Tournillon are bringing blessings with their 501c3 non-profit organization, Blessing Bags, which is dedicated to helping the homeless in San Antonio, Texas.
Villanueva, president of Blessing Bags, has always loved helping out people, so it was no surprise when after volunteering overseas she returned home and began researching various places to volunteer because she wanted to serve the homeless in her own community. When she didn’t find what she was looking for, she decided to start her own outreach program. While Villanueva focused on building the outreach program, she enlisted the help of her best friend, De Tournillon, vice-president of Blessing Bags, and Gabe Boivin, marketing director of Blessing Bags. Through a ton of research, together, they started the paperwork to make Blessing Bags a non-profit organization.
“It was just incredible that we were able to get all these skills from [Shannon] and from Gabe, he’s our eye in the sky,” De Tournillon said. “He was able to get the website going and take care of all the social media, which was huge, getting us connected with non-profits, it really is a great team.”
The Blessing Bags team provides services to the community on a physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional level by going out and distributing blessing bags filled with snacks and physical necessities such as toiletries. Resource packets are also provided in the blessing bags. Some of the resources include, mental health hotlines, free counseling, locations to the nearest food bank, and areas where free clothes are provided. Blessing Bags also provides prayer services. Through the prayer services, a Blessing Bags team member will take the time to sit, pray, and converse with the community.
“We believe that’s intersected with mental health,” said Villanueva.
Helping the community is so important to the Blessing Bags team that around the beginning of the pandemic, they had to readjust how they provided assistance during quarantine.
“There were many times where it was just me and my mom or me and a few other friends,” said Villanueva. “Our outreach really shrunk during that time.”
Though quarantine was a huge obstacle for the young non-profit organization, Villanueva refused to call it quits.
“Whether there’s a pandemic or not, there’s still homeless people out there and they still need our help,” said Villanueva.
Through perseverance, Blessing Bags has seen so much growth. They have gone from two people to 15 people at their outreaches.
“The things that are in this bag, we don’t think twice about -toothpaste, comb, a granola bar – things that can really make an impact for someone living on the street, that’s nothing to us,” said Villanueva. “I’ve really learned through this to just be grateful and just come in every space and meet every person with a heart of gratitude.”
For more information on Blessing Bags, please visit their website:
https://www.blessingbagssa.org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Blessingbagssa Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/blessingbagssa/