Rotary Club of Ogden inspired to fill backpacks for homeless

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:42 PM

JaNae Francis, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Members of the Rotary Club of Ogden said they were inspired by what they read in the newspaper about the community coming together in the Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless Initiative.

And they translated that admiration into action this month.

The club has completed two efforts to fill 100 backpacks each time with needed supplies for homeless people.

Club President Scott Sluis of Zions Bank said there were Rotarians in other parts of the country who were doing backpacks for homeless people and that was another reason the Ogden club decided to pursue the project.

“It is a privilege to take care of those less fortunate,” said Kirk Chugg, a Rotary member and owner of Harbor Custom Clothing.

Wednesday was the club’s second effort at filling the backpacks.

Chugg brought his twin kindergartener sons with him during the lunch community service project.

“It’s nice for me as a father,” Chugg said. “I can bring these kids to things like this and explain what we do at Rotary.”

Chugg said he’s taken his third-grade daughter with him to deliver dictionaries to third graders and also to the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank when Rotary delivered donations there.

He believes such activities provide important lessons.

“I try to teach my kids that when you live in a community and you have blessings, you’re obligated to take care of people who are less fortunate,” the father said.

Chugg hopes his children will see the value in giving back to their community.

The father said he believes, based on responses he got when he asked for help, that others in the community understand the need to give back.

“I just posted a project on Facebook,” he said. “People said ‘I want to do that.’ and ‘I want to come and help.’”

He said that one post garnered commitments from 80 people and the Rotary didn’t even need 80 people.

Chugg said taking his children along on projects puts life into perspective for them.

“I say ‘Do you know there are people who don’t have homes?’” he said.

Sluis said the cost of the 200 filled backpacks was kept to a minimum because area businesses were generous when he went to purchase the supplies.

The two projects were completed with less than $3,000 spent in supplies.

He said some businesses sold him supplies at cost, others sent in special orders for the effort and certain businesses sent extra staff to help him load the bulk of the items into his vehicle.

“Everybody kind of chipped in,” he said. “It was definitely a community effort.”

The first group of backpacks the group filled went to St. Anne’s Center.

The second group, filled Wednesday, was split with 50 backpacks going to Your Community Connection and the other 50 going to Ogden Police patrolmen.

“We thought we’d give them to the patrolmen so they had something for good will,” Sluis said. “They are viewed as the bad guys as they are telling the homeless to move along.”

Rotary member Mark Hilles of Mountain West Architects said he thought the effort was very worthwhile.

“The most important part is reaching out and giving that person that needs it a spark,” he said.

Being homeless is a position that all people could be in someday given a wrong turn or two, such as losing one’s job at a time when debt has piled up, he said.

“You lose your job, you don’t know what circumstances can collide,” he said.

“We’re able to lift somebody up, even if it’s just for a minute.”

How to give

The Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless Initiative is an effort to find ways to get the community to come together and lift up youth who are at risk of becoming homeless or who become homeless.

The Standard-Examiner is donating $1 for efforts to fight youth homelessness for every donation made online as part of the Standard-Examiner Young & Homeless initiative, up to $10,000.

To donate, visit

Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE.

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