It is no secret I have a huge affinity for the homeless population here in Denver. I have sponsees, friends (as well as folks I have yet to encounter) all trudging the streets of Denver and its suburbs. In truth, my own relationship with the streets of Denver started with my descent into the whiskey madness and developed into a program of sorts, with my entry into recovery. And what I have found, more often than not, is that the difference between wanting to help the homeless and not helping the poor and the needy comes down to 1) opportunity and 2) a decision. Lots and lots of folks want to help, yet they don’t exactly know how. Then, there are those who have the desire but don’t exactly follow through on the real time decision making of providing effective assistance, as it is sometimes not an easy thing to judge whether or not our assistance is used efficiently. Either way, I want to make it easier this year for my readers to touch someone’s heart; someone who may not be around very long and could use the TLC right now.
So given the atmosphere here in Denver (brrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!), I bring to you a program I have recently come across. It is called Backpacks of Hope. It is practical, realistic and easy to participate in as well as timely. There are men, women and children (entire families) living on the streets, in cold weather shelters and motels as we speak. You, as a potential contributor, also have the added assurance this group and its resources, has had boots on the ground for quite some time and is not looking for a paycheck or a tax write-off. Backpacks of Hope is a labor of love, no doubt about it. Here is a synopsis from Danielle, one of the Co-Founders, along with all the relevant data needed to get in touch with the group…
“Backpacks of Hope started when my friend and I had some meaningful interactions with several homeless people that touched our hearts. We could not get them out of our minds and one day after seeing one homeless man in particular buying a few small items at the store I thought to myself, “I really want to do something for this man.” Every interaction with him was so humble, he never asked for anything and when we eventually provided for him, he was incredibly grateful.
I had told my friend Mary I wanted to buy him a backpack and fill it with some fresh new clothes and socks and underwear, some hygiene items, water and snacks. She told me what a great Idea it was and it was then that we made a decision. We wanted to save up some money to do this but we didn’t know when we were going to see him again.
Shortly after, we came into contact with a woman whom we also saw as hurting inside and suffering on the outside. We began to realize this was not just about one man living on the streets; this is about everyone who can’t afford basic necessities. Most of us get to go home to our warm beds, and we take for granted the blessings we have. This woman couldn’t choose between a drink or a food item because she didn’t have enough money for both. That day we bought that woman her food and drink. She hugged me when I told her “God bless you.” She was literally in shock and speechless. I will never forget the look on her face from such a simple act of kindness. She was filled with so much gratitude that it made me realize how unappreciative I really was of all my own basic necessities.
It was at that time I decided we shouldn’t do backpacks for just one individual; we should do them for as many as we can. So we made it a goal that before Thanksgiving we would start putting backpacks together. In October of this year I created a Facebook page, I wanted it to reach as many people as possible. We asked our friends and family to like and share our page to get the word out. We needed donations to supply the backpacks with gently used items, new socks, food, hand warmers, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc.
God opened my eyes to a lot of things in those first days. Personally, He was teaching me to live humbly. We were going through our own struggles with finances and yet, after meeting these men and women on the streets for our first outreach and seeing how humble they were, how well they managed to be grateful for what they had, my heart began to change. My outlook about my own life as well as my gratitude grew to the point that I could choose to be better, choose to be more helpful.
So I took a leap of faith. We began contacting friends and family and in a short time we were able to put together nine backpacks, which exceeded our original goal of 3-5 and we still had extra items like coats, shoes and hygiene products for our Christmas Outreach. In a few short months we have been contacted by the Community of Denver at large, by a Denver School, and a Denver company that also works to help us reach more of the homeless. We hope to continue our outreach, at least once a month if not more, supplying backpacks to those who are in need and restocking them with fresh new items. We had a man tell us he had only one pair of socks that he keeps washing in the community sinks and sprinklers. Another woman told us (in tears) how badly she needed a pair of pants because she had only one, and they were all but ruined. And of course…. the shoe thing. One man had more duct tape on his shoes than he had shoe material. It was heartbreaking.
My name is Danielle and my friend Mary and I cofounded Backpacks of Hope. If you are interested in volunteering as well as giving assistance, please feel free to inquire.
If anyone is interested in helping our organization you can contact us via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 720-689-9310 or visit our Facebook page www.facebook.com/backpacksofhope for updates including the launch of our website and much more. If you would like to make a cash donation we accept cash donations on our “gofundme” page @ www.gofundme.com/backpacksofhope303. We are just starting our social networking and can’t wait to see what God has in store for the future."
Thank you dear reader, for all that you do for us and as always, for being such loyal fans of mine. Many blessings this Holiday Season for those that prefer it that way and of course, Merry Christmas to those that do indeed celebrate it just the way it is.