Three women standing shoulder to shoulder

Community Strategies staff members Brittany, Cindy, and Janet at the Blessed Backpack Brigade community meal in Webster.

WEBSTER, Mass. – Clients and staff from CRJ’s Community Strategies program helped dozens of individuals in need start the new year off a little warmer, healthier, and happier.

In January, four staff members and six clients delivered about 70 gift packages of toiletries, hats, scarves, gloves, and other items to the Blessed Backpack Brigade. The nonprofit organization provides free items and meals to individuals who are homeless, disabled, lonely, or living in poverty in the Dudley-Webster area, south of Worcester.

In addition to the six clients who made the delivery and helped serve a free meal to recipients, about three-quarters of all Community Strategies clients in Massachusetts donated to the effort.

The donation to the Blessed Backpack Brigade was part of Community Strategies’ Pay it Forward initiative, which supports a different charity around the holidays each year. In the past, clients and staff have donated time and items to homeless shelters, veterans groups, and an organization that supports terminally ill children.

This year’s effort felt especially rewarding for clients, said Janet Kachadoorian, the residential director at Community Strategies, who organizes the annual Pay it Forward initiative.

“Some of our clients were on the verge of crying, they got so emotional helping other people,” she said. “It makes them feel so good.”

The Community Strategies clients and staff were especially moved by seeing two young boys’ faces light up when they received donated Spider-Man and Ninja Turtle hat, scarf, and glove sets.

Afterward, the staff and clients gathered in the parking lot to debrief, have a group hug, and trade high-fives on another successful Pay it Forward effort.

“We talked about how awesome it feels to do something for people who have nothing,” Kachadoorian said. “This is what we do, help people less fortunate.”