(COLORADO SPRINGS) – Local community organization Step Up El Paso set up on the corner of South Tejon Street and East Las Vegas Street to give to those in need on Sunday.

East Las Vegas Street is typically lined with people that don’t have housing. What might now catch the eye along the line, are pops of bright-colored backpacks.

“I was looking up and down the street to see everybody with their colored backpacks on. It gave them the freedom of choice, you know, they were able to pick the color… And people say thank you. Thank you for not forgetting about us. Thanks for remembering that we’re out here,” said Raquel Garcia CEO and Executive Director of the HardBeauty Foundation.

One individual was particularly excited about his purple backpack.

“I just like purple!” said Sean Comtois, an unhoused person in Colorado Springs, who was showing off his new backpack.

Volunteers with Step Up El Paso were able to hand out over 120 backpacks. Funded by the Hard Beauty Foundation and Diversus Health, the backpacks were filled with basic necessities, hygiene tools, winter accessories, a sleeping bag, food, and more.

“I feel so blessed that there actually are people out here who know what’s going on and they actually do care about the community,” said Comtois, who said he is thankful to have a sleeping bag now after his old one was just recently stolen.

Part of why the organizer decided to do this, is because he knows firsthand, the hardships they deal with every day.

“I remember when I was on the streets, I built a shelter during the winter and stayed in it, and I didn’t have no sleeping bags, I didn’t have common necessities…Me coming from that, I don’t ever forget it. And I don’t ever forget that there are people out here, suffering,” said Jeremy Pavlick, founder of Step Up El Paso.

Currently, the organization does this handout once a year, but with more funding and support, they hope for it to become more frequent in the future. To donate or volunteer for Step Up El Paso, you can email them at stepupelpaso1@gmail.com or call: 719-644-4387

“Our goal is to never charge money for services. Regardless of your ability to pay or lack of ability to pay, you can receive services…Our hope is that we can do this more often, hopefully quarterly,” said Garcia, urging people to donate at their website.

Bringing services free of charge to people in need is Garcia’s mission. It is how the HardBeauty foundation’s recovery center in Castle Rock operates, and how she intends for the new recovery center that they are opening in Colorado Springs, to operate.

The recovery center will focus on substance abuse and mental health counseling. But, there is also a virtual option for those that cannot get to the recovery center.

“You actually can receive services from our organization, probably at no cost to you, virtually from wherever you are. And that’s because we wanted to help rural frontier Colorado as well,” said Garcia.

The recovery center is kicking off with an open house on Feb. 14, which Garcia is inviting the community to attend. The center will be located off Lehman Drive and North Academy Boulevard so that people can access the bus from the site.

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