Tis the Season: Burners Gifting Back

The spirit of generosity is in the air. Checkout lines are miles long, stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and our hearts (and our wallets) are open. While the world’s attention is so highly focused on gifting during this holiday season, Burners across the world are creating ways for their friends, family, and fellow Burners to gift back.

A Vegas Volunteer at the Hot Dog Stand Smiles Photo Courtesy of BamBam

This weekend, Andie Grace, our Communications Manager, and her husband Tom Price held a Christmas party at their home in San Francisco. Rather than having guests bring the obligatory bottles of wine and holiday trinkets, Andie and Tom turned their gathering into a diaper drive. Their party invite read, “All we want for Christmas is to fill the bathtub with diapers to donate. Please bring a package of disposable baby diapers of any size to help Bay Area babies in need via Help a Mother Out.” When I arrived with my baby wipes in tow, the tub was already half-full. Andie happily reports that she and Tom collected four big bags full of diapers to give to Help a Mother Out.

As I talked with Burners across the country this week, I found other examples of friends coming together during this hectic month to make a meaningful contribution to their local community.

Feeding the Homeless and Hungry in Las Vegas

On Sunday, December 19, 2010, a group of twenty-five Burners, their children, and friends served over 450 meals to the homeless and hungry of North Las Vegas.

Last year, on Christmas Eve of 2009, BamBam, a ten-year Burning Man veteran and owner of the mobile hot dog stand he calls “Hot Diggity Dog,” enlisted the support of his partner Pebbles and a few other friends and took his stand down to the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Owens in North Las Vegas. That evening, the crew served over 250 meals of jumbo hot dogs, chips and sodas to the homeless and hungry. BamBam set up a canopy and a big sign that read “HOT DOGS” and watched lines form around the stand.

Long Lines for around the Hot Diggity Dog Stand in North Las Vegas

“People came up to us asking if they could buy a hot dog” BamBam said. “We told, them ‘No way! If you are hungry, this is our gift to you.’”

Following the success of last year’s Christmas Eve mission, BamBam joined forces with Eric Rebollo, a fellow Burner and the two set a goal of not only raising enough money to serve over 400 meals but to also provide socks, blankets, toothpaste, clothes, and other essentials to those in need. With this goal in mind, BamBam and Eric posted a call for help to their Vegas Burner community lists and eagerly anticipated the big day of gifting.

BamBam (bottom left) and his partner Pebbles (fabulous winter beauty) and the Hot Diggity Dog Volunteer Crew Photo courtesy of BamBam

The Vegas community responded in a big way. This year, the group’s presence in North Las Vegas expanded from six people to twenty-five people and from a setup of one canopy and a hot dog stand to three canopies and twenty tables packed with clothes and supplies. The crew gifted food and necessities until there was nothing left.

Vegas Volunteers Set Out Food to Give Away Photo Courtesy of BamBam

“Volunteers even brought their teenagers with them this year, the ones who were old enough to really get it. These kids could see the true connection happening. I loved watching them smiling and seeing this touch their hearts,” BamBam reports.

We look forward to hearing about next year’s hot dog stand, BamBam. Thank you, Vegas Burners and friends, for your generosity.

In keeping with this spirit of gifting, Tiya Coleman, one of our Las Vegas Regional Contacts, is organizing a Habitat for Humanity workday on January 8, 2011 for the Vegas Burner community to participate in. More information can be found here on the Habitat For Humanity site. To register to volunteer, click on the “Burners Without Borders” name under “Upcoming Events” on the bottom right side of the page.

Go Las Vegas!

Detroit Burners’ Backpack Bonanza

Instead of giving her birthday presents on January 14, 2011, Danielle Kaltz aka Doxie, our Detroit Regional Contact, asked her friends to make a tax-deductible donation of $25 (or whatever they could afford) to Burners Without Borders Detroit. By 2pm on December 21, 2010, Doxie’s Birthday Wish had been met and surpassed. Doxie happily reports that the donations will be used to help the homeless in Detroit with supply-filled backpacks.

Doxie’s backpack project, now widely supported through Burners Without Borders efforts in Chicago and Detroit, dates back to four Winters ago when Doxie started noticing the men living out in the cold under highway passes in Detroit. Doxie thought to herself that these “highway men,” as she calls them, must need help. She started filling her car up with blankets and clothing and would regularly stop and ask the highway men if they needed anything. Eventually she ran out of supplies and began enlisting the help of others to further her gifting efforts.

“After I ran out of items,” Doxie says, “I just started to ask friends and family and then the MI_BM email list and beyond and it grew. The next year, I asked for more and got more!”

Doxie Beams! Look at that pile of backpacks! Photo Courtesy of BWB Detroit

Doxie gathered a range of useful supplies from canned goods to hats and gloves to personal hygiene items and began assembling backpacks to give out as she made her rounds through the city. Her community members couldn’t help but feel moved to contribute to this worthy project.

“At my birthday party [last] January, I told people to bring items for my project. Much to my surprise, about 170 people showed up. I had so much stuff it was amazing.”

Backpack-stuffing parties have become a regular happening in the Detroit Burner community. Earlier this month, over twenty-five people gathered to stuff 125 backpacks for the highway men and other Detroiters in need.

Detroit Volunteers Gather to Assemble backpacks Photo Courtesy of BWB Detroit

“My ultimate goal would be to have a Sprinter to drive around and have people fill there own backpacks with supplies that I would have in bins lining the vehicle,” Doxie says.

Based on the success of the backpack project so far and the spirit of kindness and generosity at the heart of these efforts, I have no doubt that Doxie’s ultimate goal will be achieved.

This year, the Chicago chapter of Burners Without Borders held a Winter Collection Drive at Decompression to collect supplies to send to their fellow Burners in Detroit for the backpack project. Now, you can donate directly to the Detroit chapter of Burners Without Borders here. Select “BWB-BWB Detroit” from the pulldown menu.

Thank you, Doxie and crew! Go Detroit and Chicago!

1st Saturdays in San Diego

On the first Saturday of every month in San Diego, a group of Burners and friends take food, clothing and other useful items out to San Diego’s homeless population. Led by Merek Findling, Jason Price, and John Halcyon Styn (of www.hugnation.com), who have been friends since high school, the group drives around the city in “The Hugmobile,” a bright pink winged RV, to distribute the supplies they amass each month.

The Hugmobile in Action! Photo Courtesy of Help the Homeless

“This is [also] a way to say ‘Hello’ to people. They are always genuinely happy to see us,” says Nicole Hickman, one of our San Diego Co-Regional Contacts and producer of the upcoming San Diego Burning Man Film Festival.

Since Nicole joined forces with Halcyon and his crew back in May, she’s been gathering friends at her home, The K Pound, on the first Friday of each month to make sandwiches for Saturday’s outings. Each time, the group manages to make over 100 sandwiches to give away to those in need.

Main organizers Merek, Jason, and Halcyon maintain a list of the supplies they need for each month’s outings on their Facebook page and collect supplies as well as paypal donations to fund the First Saturdays’ gifting missions.

Check out the 1st Saturdays website for more information and to see inspiring videos of the Hug Mobile and crew in action.

This holiday season, the Help the Homeless group invites you to donate a Care Pack on behalf of a loved one as a holiday “stocking stuffer” and as a way to gift back. To donate, visit http://www.facebook.com/HelpTheHomeless.

Go San Diego!

Call for YOUR Stories

These amazing stories are but a small sampling of the myriad ways that Burners are gifting back this holiday season!

We invite you to tell us about how you and your communities are giving back this year.

Happy Holidays! See you in 2011.

About the author: Megs Rutigliano

Megs Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano is Burning Man's Associate Director of the Regional Network. She oversees Burning Man's annual Global Leadership Conference and European Leadership Summit. Meghan explores the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.

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