Backpacks filled with toiletries are collected to help Kentucky's homeless

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comDecember 1, 2013 

Backpacks may be donated at Bluegrass Community Health Center locations for distribution to the homeless.



    ■ In Lexington, backpacks can be donated from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Bluegrass Community Health Center's clinic at 1306 Versailles Road or from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the center's clinic at 151 North Eagle Creek Drive, Suite 220.

    ■ People can also take filled backpacks to Eastern Kentucky University, Rowlette Learning Center, Kit Carson Drive, in Richmond.

    ■ For more information about donating backpacks, call (859) 259-2635. Donations will be accepted until Dec. 14.

James Crawford of Frankfort has been staying at a Lexington homeless shelter while he looks for work.

Crawford, 41, was encouraged to hear about a Lexington community health center's drive to collect backpacks filled with toiletries and warm items for people who are primarily living on the streets.

"A lot of us have a problem with having something to put our clothes ... in," he said. Warm items and toiletries "would be a huge help.

"Gloves ... would be a great help to people that are out and about out on the street trying to find work."

Many, he said "have nothing."

Staff at Lexington's Bluegrass Community Health Center, which provides primary care to the homeless, are asking people to donate backpacks filled with toiletries and warm items such as gloves and hats.

Each year at Christmas since 2011, the center has collected backpacks for people living on the streets served by the Catholic Action Center, a day center for the homeless, where Crawford had stopped to get warm Friday, and the overnight shelter where he sleeps, called The Community Inn.

The gift of a backpack filled with personal items gives dignity and relief to people living on Lexington's streets, advocates say.

"When you are on the streets you basically carry all your possessions with you," said Ginny Ramsey, co-founder of the Community Action Center and the Community Inn. "Having the backpack with the personal care items gives more dignity to those who don't have a place to call home."

In addition to Lexington's Catholic Action charities, some of the backpacks will go to Kentucky River Foothills Emergency Solutions, a Richmond-based program that works to prevent homelessness and also helps homeless veterans.

Kentucky River Foothills Development Council Executive Director Vicki Jozefowicz said some people who enter their program "don't have anything."

Backpacks can be filled with toiletries such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and other items such as hats, gloves, socks and a blanket.

Donna Agee, a clinic manager at Bluegrass Community Health Center, said as many as 300 backpacks have been donated in past years.

"I am thankful for the individuals that will give this gift not only of warmth, but possibly of hope and newfound faith in our community," Agee said.

Bluegrass Community Health Center receives federal funding to provide health care to the homeless, Agee said.

A department of Eastern Kentucky University, the center provides primary health care. The clinic provides services to the uninsured but also accepts Medicaid, Medicare and private insurances.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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