A group of friends, with the backing of social media, turned a charitable Christmas deed into a global movement to give back and unite people of all ages, backgrounds and economic groups--one lunch bag at a time.
The #hashtaglunchbag movement began in a Hollywood apartment in 2012, but six and half years later, it is going strong and continues to spread worldwide, encouraging individuals to pack their own lunch bags to distribute to those in need.
The Living Through Giving Foundation, the nonprofit organization that sprouted due to the idea's rapid growth, provides volunteers with the tools to create and benefit from "organized acts of Love" in their own communities.
"Just kind of watching how it grew, and bringing back the humanity and going down to Skid Row and seeing what was going on down there, it just felt like this is what we were supposed to do," said JD Mcelroy, one of the #hashtaglunchbag founders.
The idea that began with 100 lunch bags soon grew out of the apartment and into a popular Hollywood sports bar, The Parlor. Now, The Parlor serves as the headquarters of #hashtaglunchbag the last Saturday of every month.
On any of those Saturdays, a thousand lunches are hand made and handed out to those who need it most. According to the organization, love notes are a key component of #HashtagLunchbag events because they acknowledge the humanity of the recipient and offer small, but impactful, gestures of kindness.
"The goal is to make a sandwich you actually want to eat, as if you're making it for somebody that you love and care about," said #hashtaglunchbag founder Ajay Relan. "Writing a note is to write something you'd want to read when you're having a rainy day, and that's something everybody can relate to. And it just hopefully bridges the gap between the giver and receiver."
Since 2012, #HashtagLunchbag has hosted at least one event per month in Los Angeles.
The next event is on June 29 in Hollywood. Those wishing to be part of the movement can use the organization's do-it-yourself tool kit to gather what is needed to begin the process of giving back.
"I look around, and I see folks that look like me and folks that don't look like me, and we're all here to put our egos aside. It's for a greater purpose, and I think that's just life--to do things that are bigger than you," said Christopher Bordenave, a #hashtaglunchbag volunteer.
The movement has reached more than 150 cities globally, and there are about 50 events happening nationally every month.
"We're all coming here to do one common thing: to make sure that we can instill some goodness in somebody's life, one lunch bag at a time," Bordenave said.