BWB Detroit Homeless Backing Project Annual Packing event was a major success!

OK.. so this past Sunday was our annual BWB Detroit Homeless Backpacking Event. We have been doing it since 2008…what?
Hard to believe this is our 9th winter on the streets.. humbled and amazed at this still and surprised how fast time moves.This year we went to yet another new location as we out grew Anew Life Prosthetics last year when over 160 people showed up. Not gonna lie i love that place as I adore our hosts Kim & Chris Casteel.

We gathered this year at the Tangent Gallery & Hastings Street Ballroom, not far from Anew Life. This made moving the items in storage very easy.

The schedule for the day was this..

10am – load up the Citypak from Mikes place. One group of folks needed for this. (

11am- Meet at Anew Life
Meet at storage to get supplies from there to Tangent- this will be at Anew Life at Milwaukee and Woodward.

I am guessing we will need 3 trucks/vans- 6 people total minimum

Noon- at Tangent Gallery
Where we need folks to help unload vehicles and get them in building 4 people to help…

1-4pm- at Tangent Gallery
Set up and pack the backpacks like we do Detroit assembly style

4-5pm- load at Tangent.. Unload at Anew Life and return all items to storage.

This was the plan.. but as i started to see the numbers of folks indicating there were coming on the facebook invite I got a bit concerned due to how crowded it got last year.

So I came up with the idea of staging the event and asked folks to come in shifts.

One shift from 12 noon to 2:30 for set up. The other one from 2:30 to 5 to fill and organize the lovely little backpacks. SOO that way if everyone could pick a time slot and come for one or the other shift, it will go much more smoothly. Smooth is good !

On the first shift.. folks were there by time I arrived at 11:30..i was at the storage unit leading that move.

Things were going well, tables were set up and folks had begun to unpack the 88 boxes of supplies that were unloaded at 11am. I had 4 truck loads of additional items brought in.

We set stations of all the supplies so they could be loaded assembly style.. very Detroit.  We had items separated from heaviest to lightest which makes moving and wearing the backpacks much easier.
We wrote down at each station on how many of each item were to go in the packs. We also had folks at each station to help.
During this time we had a huge crew of folks cleaning, breaking down boxes and stripping as much waste off the items as possible so there will be very little littering.  (first world concern we get that)
There was a big crew of folks making hygiene packs.. which is the most difficult part to do as there are so many items for them. This was such a great thing to have done before packed, as Teal noted on our facebook page, “NO bottleneck waiting for hygiene packs to be finished, because they were all filled and waiting. That in & of itself was a HUGE accomplishment!”  I could not agree more.
All of this was done by 1:30-1:45pm and folks were eager to start packing.
But I had to have them wait or i knew the 2:30 to 5pm crew would have nothing left to pack.
We killed some time by having snacks and I gave folks a short (or longish) history of our project, as many folks in the room were new.
About 20 folks were from Shinola alone! Which was great. They were a quiet bunch but all hard working. One of the folks on their team pulled me aside to personally thank me for doing this project because many years ago this person had been on the streets and knew what the supply filled backpacks would do for someone in need. I almost cried and I thanked him for confiding me that…and I told him he was proof positive that folks can get off the streets.
The reason Shinola folks were there to volunteer was due to Tiffany Daniel the HR Business Partner of Shinola. She not only organized these folks, she donated items on our page and came with supplies. See there is something that is not very known about the backpacks this year. While they are from Ron Kaplan’s design for Citypak and his company he was very helpful in getting our backpacks donated to us from Shinola.
We could not afford the full price nor the NonProfit price of the bags as we are a 100% run, no budget grassroots organization. His doing that for us and their funding it made such a big difference this year. We could have not done it this without there help like we are doing it! fact and i am very grateful to each of these groups for their support.
Everyone noted the backpacks and we did a small demo on how they work. We also printed off directions and put them in envelopes that had notes write to the person receiving the bag telling them that someone they do not even know cares about them!
So by 2:30 we were ready and folks started to pack by grabbing a pack and going around the room from station to station filling them up.
They were all counted. Then are all lined up to be either checked out by folks wishing to distribute them on the streets or packed to go to storage to be taken out at a later day!

NO JOKE all of the packing was done in about 35 minutes. yes we ran out of backpacks that fast. and they were ALL filled. Luckily I got $540 worth of cash donations that day and I sent someone out to get more backpacks. While they were not that successful and we still about 30 to fill we did get about 6 more filled.

And during the time Josh was gone shopping folks packed up all the items together to go in those 30 backpacks we will get (ordering soon) so they can be easily assembled later! Then all of those were put in bins and taken to the storage location as well.

149 backpacks were taking into storage and 176 were checked out by folks who came to pack. Which totals 325. and i know i have a bunch in my garage still unaccounted..assuming about 20-25. and I am assuming a good number of folks took some during the dinner that sadly did not get counted….ahh we were sooo close to having an accurate count. but add to that the 30 we still have to fill.. so the told is at least 375 that we will get on the streets this year.. unless we get more backpacks.. and if we do i will get them packed and out!!

It is AMAZING the amount of organizing that goes on and how folks just take charge and solve the problems as needed and come up with great solutions. I like to call people like this; Solutionaries!

By time 4pm rolled around we were pretty much done, with all items in storage and the space cleaned. This made it easy for the next crew of volunteers to come in and set up for the Community Dinner we had.

Each event had easily over 110 people, not all the same who helped all day packing came to the dinner but many stayed and broke bread together. Which is why we did both events together!!

Below are many images from the day. I hope to have them all as a gallery on our Burners without Borders Detroit facebook page soon.  Please like our page.


Backpacks unpacked and waiting to be filled. Image by Kathleen Bruce


Crews packing. Image by Adam Layne


Tracy Daniel from Shinola with Danielle Kaltz. Image by Tony Maceratini


BWB Detroit filled CITYPAK!!!    Image by Tony Maceratini


Mark manning a station! Image by Tony Maceratini


tons of supplies ready and waiting. Image by Danielle Kaltz


Organized chaos!  Image by Tony Maceratini


People checking out backpacks to distribute!   Image by Tony Maceratini


More Organized Chaos!! Image by Tony Maceratini


Hand warmers..never enough of those! image by Danielle Kaltz


The SHINOLA CREW!!!!!    Image by Tony Maceratini


Assembly Line filling – image by Danielle Kaltz



Filled CityPak and a random tiny pack too!

12308301_10208181555235526_6560915749688454015_nFilling the backpacks


Filled CityPak backpacks.


BP sorting canned food!!


Filled hygiene packs!


Juice box and water station! Image by Ashley Nicole.


Items packed and ready for the backpacks enroute! image by Gretchen Martin


Items packed and ready for the backpacks enroute!  image by Gretchen Martin



adding blankets to the backpacks  image by Danielle Kaltzj20151129_143056

Jason Cockram manning the glove station. image by Danielle Kaltz


Teal and her sister Purple Bruce organized the hygiene packs! image by Danielle Kaltz


Adam Layne looked so fly.!!   image by Danielle Kaltz


Kathryn FeDorko organizing scarves and socks. image by Danielle Kaltz



Two awesome and adorable volunteers ❤ …image by Danielle Kaltz


link to the event -


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One Response to BWB Detroit Homeless Backing Project Annual Packing event was a major success!

  1. Pingback: Burners without Borders Detroit- Potluck Thanksgiving Dinner | Burners Without Borders Detroit

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