Fayette County

Organizations taking donations of backpacks for the homeless

People in Lexington who call the streets their home sometimes don't have personal-care items such as a toothbrush, socks or lotion.

Even if they have those items, they often don't have anything to carry them in.

Staff members at the Bluegrass Community Health Center in Lexington, which receives federal funding to provide health care to the homeless, have launched a project to provide personal care and cold-weather items this holiday season, said nurse manager Donna Agee.

As part of the center's commitment to the homeless, the staff is collecting donations of backpacks filled with personal-care and other items. The staff will collect bags and supplies until Dec. 8 and deliver them to the Catholic Action Center, which provides food and other help for the homeless, on Dec. 9.

"It can make a difference for the people who call the streets their home to have the dignity of personal-hygiene items and a backpack to carry them in," said Ginny Ramsey, co-director of the Catholic Action Center.

The items the community health center staff is collecting include: New or like-new backpacks or duffle bags, hats or gloves, socks, disposable plastic rain coats or ponchos, hand lotion, lip balm, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and bar soap. Agee said the goal for the drive is to provide at least 50 filled backpacks.

Anyone wanting to donate those items can take them to the Bluegrass Community Health Center's Lexington location at 1306 Versailles Road, Suite 120, by Dec. 8. The Bluegrass Community Health Center is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. The telephone number is (859) 259-2635.

Bluegrass Community Health Center, which also has a location on 151 North Eagle Creek Drive, Suite 220, is sponsored by Eastern Kentucky University. The health center provides primary health care for pediatric, adult and geriatric patients. It provides services to the uninsured and accepts Medicaid, Medicare and many private insurances. Most of the center's patients are charged on a sliding scale based on the family's size and income.

The Bluegrass Community Health center was originally established in 2001 with a federal grant to serve local farm workers. In 2007, additional grants allowed the center to also serve uninsured patients and the homeless. Serving more than 900 patients in its first year, the center will serve at least 9,000 patients in 2011, Agee said.

The items donated through the project are going to the Catholic Action Center at 400 East Fifth Street, which offers three meals a day, shower and restroom facilities, clean clothing and other help. All funding is through donations, and 125 to 150 people are served on any given day, Ramsey said.

"I don't know that everyone understands that this population exists or how to reach them," said Agee. "We just care so much about them that we want to help."