Another 40 backpacks filled with essential items homeless people in North Bay can use will be distributed during the week of July 12.
The Compassionate Committee for the Homeless in North Bay has been filling the backpacks after carrying out another collection drive of necessary items Saturday at the New Apostolic Church.
Rebecca Riesen, the lead coordinator of the Backpacks of Love program, says thanks to Sport Chek, Freshco along with help from many private citizens, the group has gathered nearly 300 backpacks.
The original goal was to acquire 200 backpacks and fill them with goods.
Sport Chek helped with the first 45 backpacks by donating 16 of them and Riesen says the retailer then provided a great discount on the remaining backpacks.
Next, Freshco stepped forward by donating 200 backpacks and then about 50 more came from ordinary people.
Riesen says officially there are 293 homeless people in North Bay and the organization should have enough backpacks for every person once they are filled.
Riesen adds the money to buy the additional backpacks from Sport Chek came from donations from the public.
People can also donate cash or write a cheque to her or Leah Pierce, president of the Compassionate Committee for the Homeless in North Bay.
However, the group cannot issue tax receipts.
Riesen says the first set of 45 backpacks were distributed to the people living at the tent city before it was shut down last week.
The next batch of about 40 backpacks will be given over to Boots on the Ground, Hope's Heroes, the Indigenous Friendship Centre, and The Gathering Place, since these four organizations know who the homeless people are and how to contact them.
“This was also how we determined what the homeless need, by contacting the people who come face-to-face with the homeless,” Riesen said.
Riesen says Saturday's collection day saw lots of tarps brought in and other items like combs, toothpaste and clothing.
Pierce said the French Catholic Nuns at the Sisters of the Assumption also knitted more than 20 pairs of slippers and socks and they're planning to make more.
Some supplies are needed more than others.
One is silver emergency blankets.
Riesen says they do a great job of keeping a person's heat within the blanket, are very lightweight and so thin they are easily folded into four by four-inch packets.
They range in price from $4.99 to $8.99 and are available at large retailers like Walmart and Canadian Tire.
Despite a good number of tarps being dropped off Saturday, Riesen says more are still needed in addition to socks.
“And if you're going to give socks, please make them men's socks because they can be worn by both men and women,” Riesen said.
“They can be heavy or light socks.”
She says so far very few mini first-aid kits have been donated so there remains a big need for them.
“Things that we also desperately need are reusable water bottles and sunscreen that's in the cream format,” she said.
Other goods include mini flashlights with batteries, ball caps or sun hats, and wet wipes.
A complete list of all goods needed is available at the Compassionate Committee for the Homeless in North Bay Facebook page.
Another collection day is set for July 24 at the New Apostolic Church.
However, Riesen says if people want to donate before that time they can call her at 705-471-2473 and she'll arrange for the goods to get where they have to be.
Riesen expects the Backpacks of Love program will continue for some time.
She says the July 24 collection day will remain focused on summer-related goods because there's still plenty of warm weather ahead.
But as the weather begins changing in the fall, the extra backpacks the organization received will start to be filled with more winter-appropriate goods.
Eight churches made up of 17 members make up the Compassionate Committee for the Homeless in North Bay.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.