Over $23,000 in supplies distributed to G.R. homeless population

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– A local nonprofit is working to make the winter months easier for people experiencing homelessness by distributing thousands of dollars worth of essential supplies.

Dirt City Sanctuary is a community housing project focused on caring for people going through homelessness and substance abuse. One of Dirt City Sanctuary’s initiatives is the Purple Backpack Project, which collected and distributed supplies to hundreds of people in Grand Rapids on Saturday afternoon.

The Purple Backpack Project is done in the memory of Jordan Christopher Blaauw, who passed away in April 2017 after a Fentanyl overdose. His mother, Wendy Botts, is a cofounder of Dirt City Sanctuary and says her son would have been pleased with the outcome of Saturday’s event.

“I think he’d be incredibly proud,” Botts says. “I think he’d be proud for all the recipients that received things but also the people that volunteered and gave their time and valued the people that came through.”

Botts says the event on Saturday had over 125 volunteers who helped distribute over $23,000 worth of supplies.

One of the people who benefitted from the event tells FOX 17 it was a blessing in his life to get the things he needs, like a new tent.

“It’s just nice when you realize that people really are givers, you know?” Jon Lee says.

Botts says while the need is great, people only took what they needed.

“They’ve all been incredibly gracious and just humbled and one thing about the homeless population that I even noticed with the last backpack distribution is if they don’t need the item, they won’t take it because they want someone else to have it,” Botts says.

Dirt City Sanctuary Cofounder Stacy Peck says she’s very grateful for volunteers who jumped at the opportunity to help.

“I was going through the list and it’s like, wow these are people that I don’t even know. I don’t even have to beg my friends and family,” Peck says. “These are members of our community that said, ‘I want to help others in this community.’ So it’s just, yeah, incredible.”

The group will be holding a second distribution event on December 22 at Heartside Park from noon-5 p.m.

Peck says the item they need most are winter boots. The group also has an Amazon wish list and a Target wish list. For ways to contribute or volunteer for the next event, click here.

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