Kelley Automotive Group will again partner with Backpacks of Hope to help provide comfort to homeless people during the harsh winter season. Kelley employees and the public are encouraged to donate essential items to fill the backpacks that will be distributed to the needy in our community.

Items needed are backpacks, blankets, gloves, winter hats, winter socks, rain ponchos, soap/body wash, 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 shampoo, lotion, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, lip balm, feminine hygiene items, pocket tissues, flashlights, hand/feet warmers, nonperishable food Items (backpack size), kids gloves, hats, books and toys. It is requested that items be new/unused and full-size. Also accepted are gently used men’s and women’s coats, jeans, warm shirts and sweaters, and anything for children.

Donations may be dropped off at any Kelley dealership location until Dec. 13:

• BMW of Fort Wayne, 929 Avenue of Autos

• Kelley Chevrolet, 5220 Value Drive

• Tom Kelley Buick GMC, 633 Avenue of Autos

• Tom Kelley Cadillac, 811 Avenue of Autos

• Tom Kelley Volvo, 860 Avenue of Autos

• Tom Kelley Chevrolet Buick, 1313 S. 13th St., Decatur

• Tom Kelley Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, 1311 S. 13th St., Decatur

• Tom Kelley Ford, 1341 S. 13th St., Decatur

Monetary donations are also appreciated. Checks can be made out to Backpacks of Hope and either dropped off at any Kelley dealership (attention Maureen Clausen) or mailed to: Kelley Automotive Group, Attn: Maureen Clausen, 633 Avenue of Autos, Fort Wayne, IN 46804.

Kelley employees will fill backpacks at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 20, at Tom Kelley Buick GMC, 633 Avenue of Autos.

Volunteers are welcome and needed. If interested, call Maureen Clausen at 260-434-4710 or email mclausen@kelleyauto.com. Filled backpacks will be distributed at Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, VA of Northern Indiana, Huntington Soup Kitchen and Charis House.

Backpacks of Hope was started in memory of Zachery Septer, who died Dec. 2, 2011, at age 21. A year before his death, Septer decided he wanted to spend time with the homeless in Fort Wayne. He started eating and sleeping alongside the homeless and befriending people in need. After his death, his family became aware of the impact he had on many people who are marginalized in society.

The winter after his death, the family partnered with Fort Wayne Rescue Mission to pass out backpacks full of items for people in need. That year, they collected 50 backpacks. In 2018, Backpacks of Hope filled close to 1,000 backpacks, with the help of Kelley Automotive Group and many others.

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