‘Rucksgiving’ comes to Portland Rescue Mission, adds creative spin on giving

While many people spent their long Thanksgiving weekend after the annual holiday festivities on Thursday decorating for Christmas and shopping for gifts, a group of 20 people from FEAR Platoon and BEASTS Obstacle Course Racers made other plans. They spent Saturday celebrating the first ever “Rucksgiving” in the Portland area.

Hiking through downtown Portland, each of the participants carried at least one rucksack on their backs and decided to go about giving to Portland Rescue Mission in a different, very unique manner after the three-mile jaunt. (The group also towed with them three wagons overflowing with food, clothing and personal care items).

“This was such a fulfilling experience for everyone involved,” said Portland “Rucksgiving” Event Leader Brandy Conway. “I think we all realized we were making a difference knowing that more people could be fed and clothed because of what we were doing.

“We weren’t just giving a backpack full of socks, soap and toothpaste—we were giving someone some dignity.”

“Rucksgiving” was created by the Obstacle Course Racing Championships in 2014, and was designed to line up fitness with giving back to the community. For Brandy, her involvement with FEAR Platoon, which was created for military Veterans and their families, also gives her another unique perspective that rings true for many of the guests we serve at the Burnside Shelter.

Portland "Rucksgiving" is a three-mile hike to bring in-kind donations to the Burnside Shelter at Portland Rescue Mission.

Portland “Rucksgiving” is a three-mile hike to bring in-kind donations to the Burnside Shelter at Portland Rescue Mission.

“Many Veterans face an overwhelming sense of isolation and a disconnect from friends and family,” Brandy explained. “This can lead to depression, divorce, substance abuse, the inability to obtain or maintain gainful employment, and the list goes on.”

All are issues that the Mission tries to counter through our Hope Ministries and New Life Ministries. Outside of offering meals to those who come to the Burnside Shelter for food, the Mission also has the Connect program. Connect is for up to 36 men and 16 women who are looking to transition quickly off the streets and into housing and/or employment. Our New Life Ministry is for men at The Harbor and for women and children at Shepherd’s Door struggling with addiction and in need of long-term recovery help with overcoming those issues.

“Portland Rescue Mission is such an integral part of the community. With feeding hundreds of people daily, providing shelter as well as addiction recovery services, and offering safe havens, the Mission’s dedication to helping those in need is paramount to the end of homelessness in Portland,” Brandy said. “Because so many people are reached through your services, Portland Rescue Mission was a natural choice for ‘Rucksgiving.’”

Brandy hopes to see “Rucksgiving” become a Portland tradition for many years to comes. Her goal for next year is to see more than 100 people arrive at the Mission to deliver over 3000 pounds of donated goods.

“Considering the passion of the two groups that came together for this year’s event, and the amazing spirit of goodwill that the people of Portland have demonstrated, I think we can make this something that lasts,” Brandy exclaimed.

If you have questions about “Rucksgiving,” or you want to contribute to the event next year, you can contact Brandy and her team at [email protected].