by Onize Ohikere
As the temperature drops, one local family is garnering support for F-M’s homeless population and involving community members and students.
Whitney Fear, a nurse at Prairie St. John’s, created the Turtle Project on Oct. 21. It asks community members to either donate empty backpacks or stock them up first with essential supplies like toiletries and warm clothing.
Fear’s inspiration for the project came from her experience at work.
“Much like a turtle has to carry its home, the patients I work with everyday are often carrying what means the most to them,” she wrote on the page. “Sometimes, they sleep outside, get caught in the rain, etc., and their bag or purse needs to be replaced.”
MSUM mass communications alumna Kristin Miller first heard of the project when a friend invited her to like its Facebook page.
“It was a no-brainer to decide to get involved,” Miller said. “It’s a really easy way to share some of your good fortune with others who are going without, especially for college students or recent grads who have a spare backpack or two sitting around, gathering dust.”
Miller said the rising number of homeless individuals in the F-M area makes the project more valuable. According to research on homelessness in the area, homelessness figures doubled between 2000 and 2012.
But similarly, the project’s Facebook page has grown to host more than 4,000 supporters. As more people stock up backpacks, the project has set up six area drop-off locations, including Slammer’s Sports Bar and Grill in North Fargo. The bags will be distributed to clients at Moorhead’s Dorothy Day house and other locations.
While the bags alone show support for those experiencing homelessness, Fear encourages donors to consider taking it a step further.
“Consider writing a short note letting the person who receives your gift know that you are thinking about them,” she wrote.
The project will collect donations until Dec. 15.
For Miller, a lot of thought is going into the contents of her backpack.
“I plan on adding in items like granola bars, a reusable water bottle, a hat, gloves and a scarf, and a small note sending thoughts and well wishes to whoever receives the backpack.”