Dallas Public Library surpasses Winter Backpack Challenge goal
The Dallas Public Library and its partners, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and the Homeless Engagement & Leadership Program (H.E.L.P.) had a modest goal this holiday season as they brought attention to National Hunger and Homelessness Week: collect 50 backpacks filled with blankets, socks, toiletries and warm hats for Dallas’ homeless population.
It turns out 50 backpacks wasn’t ambitious enough—all told over 140 backpacks full of hope were distributed on November 25 at the Central Library.
Dallas residents were asked to drop off a backpack with typical, daily use new or gently used items the week of November 14-21 at any of the Dallas Public Library locations. Warm blankets, clothing items, snacks and books were sought, as were personal notes of encouragement.
“We are so thrilled with the response,” said Jo Giudice, Dallas’ Director of Libraries. “It is our hope that the recipients of these backpacks not only get supplies to make them comfortable as the cold weather arrives, but that a personal note will lift them up and give them some pride and hope to change their lives in 2016,” said Giudice.
The Library is no stranger to the needs and struggles of the Dallas homeless population. Homelessness is a daily reality for some 3,300 throughout Dallas County and each day the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library opens its doors to hundreds of customers experiencing it first-hand. Instead of developing ways to separate the housed and homeless populations, the Library has developed the Homeless Engagement Initiative (HEI) to encourage intergroup mingling, increase awareness, dispel stereotypes and open channels of communication through Coffee & Conversation programs and a podcast called Street View. These programs positively impact the downtown Dallas community by providing creative and relevant activities including music and photography classes, a creative writing workshop, movies and games. Street View is downloaded by thousands each month and had regularly been ranked in the top ten of all society and culture podcasts nationwide.
Through these programs, the Library has the opportunity to do what it does best: open its doors to one and all and encourage the exchange of ideas. The success of any homeless outreach or poverty program is the involvement of the community through agencies, non-profits, churches, education, employment services, counseling and continuing care.
For the Library, today’s backpack distribution was an easy way to answer a greater short-term need.
“Unfortunately, the need is great, but we definitely made a significant impact today,” said Giudice.