Winter Care Package Drive

For the past few years, the YPA has led a winter care package drive for those in need in New Haven. This initiative has been led by the postdoc Nour Al-muhtasib since 2019, and this year (2021) 151 packages were made in total: 80 for men, 36 for women, 32 for children, and 3 for infants. Once packages are assembled we coordinate with our local soup kitchen, DESK, to hand out the packages. Fundraising for the packages has been organized using an Amazon wishlist, and monetary donations via PayPal, Venmo, etc. In addition to items bought off of the wishlist, in the 2021 Winter Care initiative, we received a total of $2700 in monetary donations from over 40 individuals. Each package weighed over 4 lbs, leading to a total of 680 lbs!

Below we highlight the usual items we have been including in the packages, which provide the unhoused population and low-income residents in New Haven with items that help them cover their basic needs during the winter season.


  • Gloves (1 pair)

  • Thermal socks (1 pair)

  • Hats (1)

  • Scarves (1)

  • Reusable mask (1)

Toiletries and warming supplies:

  • Lotion (1)

  • Deodorant (1)

  • Wet wipes (1 packet)

  • Chapstick (2 tubes)

  • Toothpaste (1)

  • Toothbrush (1 brush)

  • Tissues (3-4 packets)

  • Bandaids (8)

  • Antibiotic cream (1)

  • Menstrual products (pads, tampons) (8-10)

  • Thermal blanket (1)

  • Toe warmers (3)

  • Hand warmers (3)

  • Rain poncho (1)

  • Nail clipper (1)


  • Apple sauce (1)

  • Beef Jerky (1)

  • Mints (1)

  • Emergen C (3)

  • Cheese crackers (2)

  • Tuna salad (1)

  • Soft granola bars (3)

Items for kids:

  • Notebook (1)

  • Pens (1)

  • Pencils (1 pack)

  • Highlighters (1 pack)

  • Colored pencils (1 pack)

  • Pencil pouch (1)

  • Book (1)

  • Mini chalkboard (1)

  • Little toy (2)

Items for infants:

  • Formula (1)

  • Puffs (1)

  • Oatmeal for infants (1)

  • Teething biscuits (3)

Items for teens:

  • Journal (1)

  • Fidget (1)

  • Headphones (1)

Other items:

  • Resource guide

  • Notes written by children of postdocs and faculty

How to organize similar winter care package drives:

First: Know your population. It’s good to know the demographics, as it informs how many packages you will make and what to put in them. For example, is it mainly adults or are there kids? If you are going to include menstrual products,  it’s good to know how much of the population would need them. It takes some digging but will be very helpful.

Second: Decide on a location to hand out the packages and a time to do so. Call a local church or soup kitchen that is active in assisting the unhoused  population and ask them what a good time/day of week would be and the best place to hand them out. Also, make sure you pick a time before it gets too cold. 

Third: Decide on how you will raise the funds for the packages. You can go about it in two ways.. The first of which is making an Amazon Wishlist. People often like to know exactly what they are buying and this boosts the number of items donated. Often the items are also cheaper on Amazon, but not always. Quality items can also be bought at DollarTree. More specifically, the hats, gloves, and socks can often be bought from DollarTree at a great price. Snacks can be bought from Costco for a good price. Collecting monetary donations is also key. Allow for multiple methods such as Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, etc.

Some notes about the Amazon Wishlist:

1. You can write how many items you need. Every time an item is bought, Amazon will deduct it from the total items needed. Once all the items are bought, they will disappear from the standard view. It is helpful to add text in the description explaining how that works and what the full list contains. This just helps make it clear and transparent for everyone. 

2. Ask people to select the option to have the items sent to your address.

Fourth: Decide what will go in the packages! This is the most important part. When creating these packages, you want to keep in mind who will be receiving them. There are a lot of things to keep in mind that might not necessarily be obvious. Just a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to include the big bandages to help cover sores on feet especially.

  • While menstrual cups are a nice idea, not everyone has access to hot water to clean them. Keep this in mind when buying menstrual products.

  • Often those who are unhoused do not have access to dental care, therefore keep that in mind when picking snacks. Choose snacks that are soft and easy to chew. For example, choose mints over gum. 

  • Avoid mouthwash and hand sanitizer as they contain alcohol.

  • It may be best to skip soap as anywhere a person will need to use soap, they will have access to it.

  • Don’t be afraid to use plastic ziplock bags in organizing the items, they will be reused and are actually often helpful. 

  • Other items to consider including: reusable water bottles, flashlights, tarps, hair brushes, etc. 

  • Do not include vitamin packets or antibiotic ointment in children’s packs. Parents’ might not be able to double check the packets and you do not want to give the children anything they might accidentally eat.