The new school year is nearly here. What are you thinking about?

New clothes for the kids? Crossing off must-haves on your student’s supply list? The bitter-sweet feeling of another summer passed?

Kelly Wilson and her team at Homeless Backpacks is gearing up for another busy year of giving.

Homeless Backpacks works tirelessly, week after week, year after year, gathering food for homeless teens to take home on the weekends. Their ultimate mission? To end homelessness by giving our future – our youth – one less thing to worrying about, allowing them to focus on school, go on to graduate and become contributing citizens. All it takes is $8 a bag, a team of superhero volunteers and a generous community.

“A few years ago, at a fundraising event, one of the students we supported stood up and shared her story.  She spoke about how, with each bag of food, she could feel the community support and all the people pulling for her. If I could write my wish for the impact we make it would be that,” shared Kelly.

Homeless Backpacks
“One of the most amazing things is the compassion I’ve seen from our student volunteers,” shared Kelly. “They really think about what their peers would like and need. The thought and care is so genuine and inspiring.” Photo credit: Jerika Ferguson

Homeless Backpacks thrives and grows through our direct community support.

“The work we do spurs conversations. It gets people taking about the needs of our community. Often people want to help, they want to give back, to make a positive impact, but aren’t sure how,” explained Kelly.

Before Homeless Backpacks began, Kelly herself was one of those people, wondering what she could do to make a difference.

“Our organization began as a conversation between friends. The idea sprang from a desire to help the homeless. We thought of the idea to get backpacks and fill them up with things a homeless person might need. At the time, we didn’t think much past the day we would deliver them. There weren’t any long-term plans to keep this going.”

Soon the big day came to deliver the bags. In the company of a local police officer and a surprise visit from a local reporter, Kelly and her friends set off to share what they had with the people who needed it most.

Homeless backpacks olympia
The team at Homeless Backpacks is a well-oiled machine. Shoppers, deliverers and baggers all come together make a difference in the lives of our homeless youth. Photo credit: Kelly Wilson

During the interview, Kelly had given her home phone number which was published with the article. From the moment the story went live, her phone never stopped ringing. Organizations, families, individuals… all were seeking her help.

“Many of us might have corrected the error, told people we weren’t an actual organization, that this was just a one-day thing,” she says. But, Kelly and her friends saw the calls as serendipitous and they answered them. That was back in 2004 and the nonprofit has grown ever since.

Jerika Ferguson is the marketing and development director of the Washington State Combined Fund Drive (CFD). The CFD’s purpose is to empower state employees and the public to start giving, either through their workplace giving programs or to be present in the community by giving back your time. Jerika met with Kelly to learn more about Homeless Backpacks and how their organization could help.

Homeless Backpacks Olympia
Kelly Wilson, right, with Olympia Country Financial Team after a fun night of bagging and prepping. Photo credit: Jerika Ferguson

“Hearing about how a group of mothers, grandmothers and friends came together to create these backpacks to help end youth hunger was incredible,” said Jerika. “When we met, back in May, Kelly mentioned that at that time they were serving up to 507 students locally every week. When you hear that 507 kids would have gone without food without their group, it makes you recognize that we in the community must do more for those in need. It is difficult for anyone to see the challenges we all face in our communities and when a group of people come together and say, ‘Let’s do something about this!’ and then they do – that not only takes effort, that takes a lot of heart.”

Last year, Homeless Backpacks served over 100 more homeless students than the year before. This school year could bring even more. Here are three easy ways you can give to Homeless Backpacks:

Support the 5k Hero Run
On Saturday morning, September 23, CFD is hosting a Superhero 5K Fun Run at Heritage Park, Capitol Lake. All proceeds this year go to Homeless Backpacks There will be music, a silent auction, a booth for the kids and lots of superheroes, of course!  Learn more and register online at: Hero Run 2017.

Homeless Backpacks
Homeless Backpacks heroes come from everywhere! Kevin Wright, of K & L Contracting, volunteers to do some work at the new facility to make it more accessible for the Homeless Backpacks team. Photo credit: Kelly Wilson

Mark Your Calendars for the Bountiful Harvest Dinner and Auction
Plan to join Homeless Backpacks on Saturday, October 21 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lacey Community Center for their annual dinner and auction. Now is the perfect time to sign up for a sponsorship, donate or buy your tickets. More information is online at: Bountiful Harvest 2017.

Call Kelly!
After all, that is how it all began.

Homeless Backpacks
Homeless Backpacks on Facebook

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