The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

December 29, 2007

Rock climbers work to collect outdoor items for homeless

Lucia Hyde Robinson is a serious rock climber, but she says the fiercest of elements she and others like her endure is nothing compared to what a homeless person faces.

“The most hard-core are the ones who are living homeless, but for them, it’s not a recreational choice — it’s a way of life,” she said.

Robinson, a Charleston native and resident of Boulder, Colo., and Rachel Babkirk, a fellow rock climber from Fayetteville, are spearheading Down for the Down and Out (DFDO), a grassroots project that provides outdoor survival gear to the homeless, who Robinson says needs it most. DFDO is in its second year, but it has now been expanded to include Fayetteville, plus five other cities across the country.

A collection bin at Waterstone Outdoors in Fayetteville set up Dec. 15 is already full, Robinson said. The project runs through Jan. 15.

During fall 2006, Robinson said, she and Babkirk were on a climbing trip, and even though they were in Texas, the weather was extremely cold. Their camping gear and outdoor clothing kept them warm and comfortable. The two later went to the nearest town to buy coffee when they saw a homeless man in the same elements — with only a thin blanket to keep himself warm.

They realized people who enjoy outdoor activities like rock climbing, boating and camping regularly purchase new gear and have piles of old gear cramming their closets which could be put to use to help the homeless.

“If they had access to high-quality outdoor gear, it wouldn’t solve all their problems, but it would certainly make them more comfortable,” Robinson said.

Robinson said she and Babkirk then e-mailed several friends who are outdoor enthusiasts, and last year collected items at Waterstone Outdoors and a location in Asheville, N.C. Babkirk collected seven “jumbo garbage bags” full of gear in Fayetteville, and Robinson had to pack her Subaru station wagon three times in Asheville.

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