When four local teenagers learned about people experiencing homelessness at school, they began noticing how many people in their community were unhoused. The group put supplies into backpacks, filled their cars and handed out the supplies to people experiencing homelessness whenever they could.
Their inspiration began seven years ago, when Frankford Middle School student Will Dobrient aimed to help a small part of these thousands of people by filling bags with water bottles, protein bars, beef jerky and Subway meal gift cards. He filled them and gave them out as he saw people in need until he graduated high school.
Continuing his legacy are four former Frankford students. Now seniors at various area high schools, they call themselves the LifePak Initiative and have taken on Dobrient’s goal of helping as many people experiencing homelessness as they can through backpacks filled with food, water and other necessities.
“For me, personally, it was a faith-based obligation,” Julian Coleman says. “It is very important that we serve the people of our communities. It does take a lot of time, and it does take a lot of effort. But you’re doing it for a worthy cause.”
Though COVID-19 made conducting safe donation drives difficult, the LifePak Initiative has completed 16 donation drives in neighborhood schools and distributed 450 LifePaks, 160 winter coats, 420 knitted hats, 140 winter gloves, 120 woven scarves, 160 baseball caps and 240 pairs of socks. As the students distribute more LifePaks, they’ve adjusted the contents according to needs that arise. The meals started out as sandwiches and chips, but the group felt driven to do more.
After partnering with the local nonprofit Cooking for the Crowd, the LifePak Initiative has cooked and delivered more than 720 hot meals. Other groups have shifted goals to partner with the LifePak Initiative as well, including Passing Hats, which shifted from delivering knitted hats to cancer patients to donating to the homeless population, and the Jesuit Ranger Trap & Skeet Team, which contributed winter clothing that was handed out with LifePaks.
Plano West Senior High school seniors Julian and Jaimi Coleman already have a lot on their plates. Julian is on Student Council and National Honor Society and participates in speech, debate and theater. Jaimi is heavily involved in technical theater. Their two other partners, Jesuit senior Nicholas Archer and Naaman Forest senior Victor Acosta, have schedules that aren’t any lighter.
Yet, the four spend their free time filling backpacks with resources for people experiencing homelessness in their communities and around Plano and Dallas, as well as finding others to join their cause before they themselves graduate.
“Our goal is mainly to spread the word and influence our generation to go out and help others and reach more people to help others that are experiencing homelessness,” Acosta says.
Throughout the past few years, the LifePak Initiative has developed relationships with schools to develop donation drives at Frankford Middle School, Shepton High School, Plano West High School, Jesuit College Preparatory School, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Naaman Forest High School.
“The big thing about what we do is relationships,” Julian Coleman says. “Without these relationships with these different schools and districts, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
“I’m not from the United States; I’m from Venezuela,” Acosta says. “I have family members and a lot of people I care about that have ended up on the streets due to an unfair situation, so I sympathize with these people out there. I feel like it’s part of my obligation as a person who was able to get out of that situation to help others.”
In recent months, LifePak focused on gaining sponsorship with Preston Hollow United Methodist Church to work as a subsidiary under their nonprofit status so that they can accept donations. The donation portal and website aren’t published yet, but the group has high hopes for the future. In addition to setting up the nonprofit and donations, all four members are working to find others to join the cause and take over The LifePak Initiative when they graduate this spring.
“We’d also love to partner with other organizations that help people experiencing homelessness so that we can form better relationships and have a better understanding of their needs and how to support them,” Archer says.