Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time

They met by chance, on what Rick Clark called the worst day of his life.

Two men, both down on their luck, were waiting at the STA Plaza, in downtown Spokane.

Clark was 44-years-old at the time. He had a ninth grade education and about eight dollars to his name. He was waiting to catch a bus to go register for community college.

That’s when he met Jared.

He was sitting in the plaza, shoeless, in March.

Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time

“For the first time in my life, I put away my stuff that I was dealing with and I turned to somebody else and I asked him if he was hungry and he said he was starving,” Clark said.

Jared told Clark that thieves stole everything he had when they made off with his backpack. Clark promised to come back to the plaza with a backpack with food and other supplies for his new friend.

He posted about the encounter on Facebook that night.

Support came in the form of 401 comments, 816 shares, and many donations.

“In 24 hours, we filled 25 backpacks full of toiletries and socks and food and gift cards and it was just amazing,” Clark said.

Jared got a new backpack and so did 24 other homeless people in Spokane.

Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time

Clark hasn’t stopped filling backpacks.

“That was 2,500 backpacks ago,” Clark said.

He’s quickly gained a following and volunteers help him deliver backpacks now. His idea has grown into an official nonprofit called Giving Back Packs.

Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time

He fills each backpack with supplies tailored to the person who gets it, from homeless teens to people sleeping on the streets.

Some of the supplies inside includes food, gift cards, an activated library card, socks, gloves, and a hat.

Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time

Through all his giving, Clark got something in return.

Four years after giving Jared that backpack and applying for community college, Clark is getting ready to graduate from Gonzaga University.

“It’s like I’m watching someone else’s life,” Clark said.

It’s a true testament to what can happen when chance and opportunity meet at a downtown bus station.

Man makes Spokane a better place one backpack at a time

“You don’t have to wait for that perfect job to help people,” Clark said. “You don’t have to wait for your life to be in order. I was at my worst day and it turned into the most beautiful day of my life.”

The good news keeps coming for Clark’s nonprofit.

He said a few weeks ago, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund pledged $32,500 dollars to help. White’s Boots also promised to donate 200 vouchers for brand news boots for homeless people, according to Clark.

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