What a great year 2016 turned out to be for BACK@YOU! Last year we distributed 200 Citypak backpacks filled with essentials to make life a little easier for our homeless neighbors, and this year we doubled down with 400 backpacks.

On October 29, over 100 volunteers showed up to help us stuff 400 backpacks. We took 200 backpacks to a location where various organizations picked them up for their clients and guests who were experiencing homelessness. Paraquad, Youth in Need, Americorps Emergency Winter Shelter, Grace & Peace Women’s Winter Shelter, Calvary Missionary Baptist Emergency Winter Shelter, STL Emergency Winter Outreach Team, Places for People, Jefferson County Rescue Mission, and Epworth all received backpacks.

We distributed the other 200 the next day, on October 30. Over 50 volunteers handed them out one on one at City Hall West in downtown St. Louis, where guests from shelters and homeless outreach programs came to receive their backpacks. Beautiful scarves made with love adorned every backpack, giving our guests the opportunity to choose a scarf they loved. Many of our volunteers returned from last year’s distribution, excited for the opportunity to take part again. Many others were new volunteers who walked away feeling that their lives had been changed. They saw their homeless neighbors in a whole new light.

Scarves handmade with love for our backpack recipients was something we thought might be hard to sustain year after year. But we discovered this year, that so many talented and generous knitters and crocheters out there are grateful to have someone appreciate the effort they put into each scarf, and they have already started on next year! People have embraced our mission of showing love, kindness, and warmth, both literally and figuratively, to each person in need.

We were grateful for the opportunities that we were given to spread the word about BACK@YOU and our mission. We appeared with McGraw Milhaven on KTRS 550 AM. Vinson Mortgage promoted us as their charity of the month. We were invited to give a presentation and be part of a panel discussion for Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice with Edie Roth from the city of St. Louis, and Laurie Phillips, the CEO of St. Patrick’s Center. Ladue News is going to be running a profile on us in their December 23 issue, and we have other media outlets that have reached out to us for publication later this winter.

Our second year was even better than our first, and we are excited for what next year will bring. We hope you will continue to follow us on our mission and support us as we step into 2017.