GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Three people brought together by the pain and struggle of addiction have now started their own initiative to help one of Grand Rapids' most vulnerable populations.

Wendy Botts lost her son Jordan last April to a fentanyl overdose. Jordan had made it his mission to help people suffering from homelessness in whatever ways he could whether by spending time, cooking meals or helping them feel understood.

"He saw people for who they were, and that people were more than their circumstances," Botts said.

In his memory, his mother is now doing the same.

Botts launched Dirt City Sanctuary alongside Tyler Trowbridge, a recovering addict and Stacy Peck.

Trowbridge came up with the name. He has the words tattooed on his knuckles, a constant reminder of where he came from.

"Dirt City Rockers, every one of us was a heroin addict," Trowbridge said.

Trowbridge is now sober and working to keep his life on the right track with help from people like Peck and Botts.

"People always said there are all these programs around...and acted like I was just lazy," Trowbridge, who was homeless in Grand Rapids just last winter, explained. "But, the more we are doing this, the more I am realizing there's not."

The three of them are filling in the gaps by launching their first ever Purple Backpack Project to provide winter survival kits to those in need. They started the project by asking those without stable housing what they needed most during the winter.

This is the list of items they've compiled and are currently collecting:

  • Water resistant purple hiking backpack
  • Mummy Sleeping Bag
  • Self Inflating Sleeping Pad
  • Thermal Blanket
  • Base Layers (generously provided by Corbeaux Clothing)
  • Rain Poncho
  • Wool socks
  • Hat and Gloves
  • Winter Jacket
  • Tarp
  • Personal Hygiene Items
  • Thermos and Instant Coffee
  • Water Canteen
  • First Aid Kit
  • Head Lamp

Bott's daughter Elaina is getting involved by holding a new or gently used glove and hat drive at her school, Grand Rapids Public Museum School. Elaina said she hopes she will inspire other kids to do the same.

They are hosting distribution days at Heartside Park starting Nov. 17. The first event will include hot meals provided by Amore and free haircuts or shaves by the stylists from Salon Re.

"I think it's just going to be this day where we can help these individuals get through the winter and feel special," Peck said.

The other distribution days are happening: Nov. 24, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22.

Botts said they are looking for volunteers and restaurants to help provide hot meals at the distribution events. Email Botts here to get involved.

To donate any of this items, check out their Amazon and Target wishlists.

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Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.