May 15, 2021

CHARITABLE CAUSE: Newton woman collects bags of hygiene items to distribute to homeless, people in need

Community invited to charity movie showing May 8, donate hygiene products for admission

Once a week for the past month-and-a-half, Stacy Grams has packed her bags and left her house without a second’s hesitation. The bags and purses she stuffs into her car are filled with on-the-go foods, hygiene products and sometimes a warm sweatshirt or a pair of socks. But they’re not for her.

They’re for the people in the Newton community who need to know there’s someone out there that cares for them. The homeless. The abused. The lost.

Grams, who owns Stacy’s Sweetstuff in downtown Newton and works at Walmart, is now devoting a large chunk of her time to this grassroots charity campaign, giving back to those who might feel overlooked or forgotten.

“It’s something that God’s telling me to do,” Grams said. “I needed to pick this up and make it happen … I feel like this is something that Jesus wants me to do. He went to the people. He didn’t wait for them to come to him.”

Inspired by her pastor’s Sunday sermon about giving back to the community, Grams took the pursuit to heart. She turned to Facebook and told her friends she was collecting items and bags for the homeless. Grams received so many responses from folks wanting to donate she had to create a separate page.

When she examined her stock of items on the floor of her downtown bakery she realized she had no place to store them. With the consent of her church, Grams has been filling a basement room of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship with an assortment of items ever since.

Grams carries them in multiple sacks and boxes at time. Everything from deodorant and tampons to masks and hand sanitizer are stacked in organized piles. One tabletop was full of brown paper sacks, which volunteers had filled with packaged food like granola bars. Bags and purses line one side of the floor.

To Grams, it’s a treasure trove.

So far Grams says she’s given away about 160 bags to people, 37 of which were distributed during her first night. Grams “very rarely” sees the same person twice.

By the end of that first night, Grams was in tears. She recalled how many of the people asked similar questions: Do you have any food? Do you have anything to keep me warm? Are you from Des Moines?

That last question is troubling for Grams.

“Because they don’t think anybody in Newton cares. I’ve had that asked probably five-six times,” Grams said. “… The way it touches people is pretty awesome.

Well, soon Newton will be able offer its support. On May 8, the Capitol II Theatre is holding a special showing of the film “Miracles from Heaven,” which stars Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah and recounts the true story of a young girl’s near-death experience who was later cured of an incurable disease.

Rather than paying for admission, moviegoers may donate a hygiene product.

Grams said she’s not trying to take away the work from other organizations, but recognizes some people don’t want to approach a church for help or have access to specific resources. Grams says she’s just a crazy Christian mom handing out bags to people who want them.

“I feel like it’s not my place to judge people — it’s my place to give them that sense of hope,” Grams said. “… People need that sense of hope. They want that sense of someone caring.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.