The Danville Community Foundation and Virginia Dept. of Corrections Contribute to Success
Charles Crumpler, Chair of the Board of Directors of the House of Hope Homeless Shelter, came up with the idea at a Boy Scout camping event. Crumpler, who also serves as an Assistant Scout Troop Leader with Mount Vernon Troop 300 realized the need for a quality backpack for the men and women who seek the services of House of Hope. "Our homeless guests must keep with them many important possessions as they venture out into the community is search of employment and other services. Often times they are caught outside in the elements, so keeping documents, clothing, and other essentials dry and secure is very important. The same concept is applied to our Scouts with being prepared when we are outside on hiking and camping trips."
The Pursuit of Providing the Backpacks
The Board decided to reach out to the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region for a grant to purchase the backpacks and basic supplies to be added to the backpacks. The Community Foundation graciously provided the grant and then we began the search of what type and how many backpacks we can provide. Our goal was at least 150 to cover the number of homeless we receive during the year. We decided to use Virginia Correctional Enterprise, as an employee of the Department of Corrections, I was familiar with their services. VCE is able to provide non-profit groups in addition to state agencies.
Virginia Correctional Enterprises Exceeds Expectations
Crumpler was given approval by the board to use Virginia Correctional Enterprises as the provider for the backpacks. Charles Crumpler contacted the sales staff at VCE and explained that he was wanting. Ms. Wilkins was concerned that the backpacks they normally provide would not meet the conditions for one who is homeless. Ms. Wilkins did her research and was able to find a foundation in Chicago called the Citypak Project. This organization helps to provide low cost, high quality backpacks for the homeless population across the country. The design of the backpack allow for proper storage of essential items, and is made to be carried comfortably and they have a built in rain poncho to keep the wearer and the pack dry.
Because of the VCE sales staff's passion with this project, she was able to help the House of Hope provide for 2 years' worth of backpacks instead of the initial goal of a years' supply. VCE was then able to use its silkscreen industry to print contact information on the backpack in the event it was misplaced and could be returned to its owner.
VCE allows those who are incarcerated to learn valuable skills upon their return to the community. So when it came time to do the silk screening on the bags, the person providing the service is obtaining an important skill set that hopefully will be a positive transition back to society.
When talking to the guest of the House of Hope who received these backpacks they are extremely grateful. Lastly, the silk screening done by VCE will not be noticed by anyone who were to see one of these backpacks out in the community. Crumpler asked that he screening be placed on the inside flap to keep the user from being identified as a guest of the homeless shelter. "Our homeless population looks like any one from any station in life. Because of challenging circumstances and or misfortunes, one no longer is able to have the basic need of food and shelter being met. The last thing we want to do at the House of Hope is to draw unwanted attention to an individual's hardships. That was the primary reason to conceal the wonderful silk screening work done by VCE."