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Giving Back Packs currently provides assistance only in the Spokane, WA, area.

How backpacks and a bus ride changed Rick Clark’s life

Big changes can be sparked by small choices. Rick Clark, 46, dropped out of high school 28 years ago. He’d been homeless and had lived on welfare.

After years of barely scraping out a living, Clark wanted something better.

“I decided a couple years ago I was done having that define me,” Clark said.

The real change in Clark’s life can be traced back to two choices he made on a single day. The first was deciding to take a bus to Spokane Community College to see about enrolling. While waiting for a bus downtown, he noticed a homeless man he had seen around the area before.

“What really drew me to him was that he was about the same age as my oldest son,” Clark said. “He was really filthy, he didn’t have shoes on his feet … I don’t know what it was other than this is a human being that is beyond broken. I can’t keep walking by him without stopping.”

Clark talked with the man and bought him some snacks, despite having about $10 to his own name at the time.

“He was super friendly, super appreciative – his eyes lit up, like he hadn’t talked to people in a while,” Clark said.

The man told him he had his backpack stolen the night before, and Clark offered to meet him the next day with a new backpack. He went online that night and asked his Facebook friends for help filling a backpack with a few basic necessities. In just a day, he had enough supplies to fill 25 backpacks.

When he gave out his first set of backpacks, he didn’t end up giving one to the man he spoke to the day before.

“He never showed up the next day like we had promised, but that’s when I realized there were a lot of other people in need,” Clark said.

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