Code Purple’s volunteers collect lots of Firefly leftovers to aid homeless

DOVER — Thousands upon thousands of Firefly Music Festival attendees were leaving the Woodlands camping grounds adjacent to Dover International Speedway in a cloud of dust on Monday morning, but they left plenty of the weekend’s remnants behind as they set off for their homes.

That was when more than 200 volunteers for Code Purple Kent County jumped into action, looking for any items such as tents and sleeping bags, as well as several other items, that could be repurposed and used by the less fortunate.

Code Purple is an initiative that keeps the homeless out of the cold by providing shelter and warm meals overnight throughout the winter months, but it also remains plenty busy in the sizzle of summer.

Judy Shirey was participating in her first Code Purple Cleanup on Monday and was almost overwhelmed when she arrived at the campgrounds, which featured piles of trash, abandoned tents, chairs and even massive amounts of food that had been left behind.

“I’m amazed at the amount of things that are left behind, not just trash, but things that may be repurposed for a good use and I think this is for an amazing cause,” said Ms. Shirey, who has attended the festival as a patron in the past. “I think Firefly brings in a lot of revenue which is much-needed and adds some temporary jobs. I think it’s fantastic that we have it.”

The volunteer workers for Code Purple Kent County began arriving on the scene at around 9 a.m. on Monday — clad in bright purple t-shirts — and remained all day long, trolling the vast campgrounds and filling up a pair of large moving vans donated by Two Men and a Truck.

“I think what everyone’s doing out here is pretty good,” Kolin Nemecek said.
“It’s good to give back to the community and helping out with the homeless people who really have no place to go. I think everybody has got to try to do more for the community.

Deep Water Church Pastor Jeff Dyer, a co-organizer of the fifth annual post-Firefly collection along with Maj. John Rundle, said the event has grown immensely from its humble beginnings, when around eight people gathered and filled up the beds of three pickup trucks.

A total of 212 people were registered to participate in Monday’s cleanup, including churches, businesses, friends and co-workers.
“The first year there was just a couple of us, and I think three pickup trucks, and we got permission to come out here and we thought we cleared out the whole lot, but we really only cleaned out part of one lot,” Pastor Dyer said. “Most people don’t realize how much stuff is out here.

Volunteers salvage items that can be used by the homeless.

“They’re like, ‘Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff,’ then they get out here and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a lot of stuff!’ People really don’t have much of a concept of how much stuff gets left out here.

“Really, if there’s 70,000 people (at the festival), if 1 in 100 leaves something, that means 7,000 people did. There’s a ton of stuff out here and we just try our best to get it into the hands of the people who need it.”
The items that were collected by the army of volunteers were sorted into several separate areas, including: blankets, tarps, food, towels, tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags, coolers and barbecues, cookware, chairs and shoes.

Maj. Rundle told the volunteers in a pre-Code Purple Cleanup meeting that they were not to retrieve any items that were broken because they don’t have the resources to fix them and not to bring back house furniture such as sofas and tables – “Remember who we’re collecting for,” he said.
Then he reminded them to wear plenty of sunscreen and to stay hydrated.
“When you get out there it is a bit overwhelming to the senses,” he told the volunteers gathered at Deep Water Church. “Your first reflex is to dash away and collect everything in the world and that doesn’t necessary work out very well for the project. Just be methodical and you’ll get a better result.

“The key to this is communication and flexibility. If you see a bucket with a lid on it — leave it. Trust me, there’s some things you can’t un-see.”
Other than that example, it does ring true that somebody else’s trash might be somebody else’s treasure.

“I think it’s just wonderful,” said Becky Martin, director of Code Purple Kent County.
“We have more than 200 volunteers coming out and it’s hot, it’s dusty, but it’s just fabulous. A lot of people have asked us, ‘How did you get with Firefly?,’ and we didn’t get with Firefly, Firefly got with us. I think that speaks volumes.”

Maj. Rundle and Pastor Dyer have the day after Firefly circled on their calendars all year long. It has turned into an amazing charitable initiative in which volunteers for Code Purple collected 250 tents last year.
“It’s a dirty, dusty job but it really helps the communities around here when we collect this stuff,” Maj. Rundle said. “It is good for the environment, it helps the Firefly folks be good partners and citizens with the city of Dover, so we appreciate everybody’s time and effort.”

Nowadays, it is growing even behind Code Purple.
“Last year we connected the Food Bank (of Delaware) to the vendors and they collected 22,000 pounds of food last year and will probably have even more this year,” Pastor Dyer said.
“This year we also added Waterways, which is a charity which ships stuff to countries all over the world.

“It’s complicated in that it takes all year to plan and orchestrate, but then on the day of it we’re just finding what we find, and you never know what you’re going to find … trust me on that one.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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