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Code Purple collections decrease with Firefly attendance

Thousands of campers swarmed Firefly campgrounds this year, and left behind hundreds of pounds of supplies. Code Purple is cleaning up to help the homeless.

Code Purple collects an average of 1 ton of items per year at Firefly - including tents, sleeping bags, clothes and unopened non-perishable food items and water. Collection coordinator Jeff Dyer says the numbers have decreased since attendance at the festival has too, but awareness is noticeably growing.

“We've gotten to the point where we can tell what stores things came from," Dyer says. "And a lot of it is bought locally I assume because it's stores we have. People come, they start camping, they run out, they buy the things they need, and at some point you realize you either have to leave with the people in your party or take your stuff back. Or they fly in and then you've acquired a bunch of materials and don't want to pay for luggage on an airline to go back.”

Dyer says around 130 volunteers typically show up to help collect supplies and load it into trucks. DelDOT, school groups like the Fifer Middle School student council, and businesses like Two Men and a Truck and Capital Cleaners also assist.

Anything gently used goes to feeding, clothing, or rehousing Delaware’s homeless population with some reaching cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Sarah Martins is a regular Firefly camper who came with a group of almost 20 friends. By 2 p.m. Monday she is by herself cleaning up the last of her site, and picking out something to leave behind for Code Purple to collect for the homeless.

“I think that is such an incredible idea. It works both ways. It helps people because they don't have to pack up as much stuff if they don't necessarily want to keep it and it goes to somebody who could really use it, which I think is just amazing.”

Coordinator Ennio Emmanuel says Code Purple’s presence is growing inside the festival too. This year they were upgraded from two tents to three, and next year they hope to have four or more to spread the word to other campers.

“This is the best church you can have," Emmanuel says. "Those are the stories I have to remember to make sure I tell the founders of this, so they’re not just hearing an Excel sheet of profits. We need to hear about the profits of people too.”

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.