This holiday season, Beta Mu – the University of Arizona College of Nursing chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing – gifted members of Tucson’s homeless population with backpacks stocked with essentials like blankets, feminine products, socks and toiletries. The project was such a success that Current Beta Mu President and project organizer, Clinical Assistant Professor Carolina Baldwin, DNP, RN, CCRN, has vowed to expand the project in 2021.
“Due to the challenging times our country, community and profession are experiencing, Beta Mu decided to answer that call with the backpack for the homeless project in the hopes of infusing joy to the people receiving the backpacks as well as to the people donating," ~ Carolina Baldwin, DNP, RN, CCRN
No stranger to community involvement, the UArizona College of Nursing has long conducted outreach to some of Tucson’s most vulnerable citizens. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, students have taught school children the importance of handwashing, and provided COVID-19 symptom information, instruction on proper use of masks, and HIV/AIDS resources to those experiencing homelessness. But Dr. Baldwin’s latest project is the first of its kind for Beta Mu. Committed to upholding a vision of global Nursing excellence, SIGMA Theta Tau International’s current call to action is to “Infuse Joy” into every activity its members participate in.
“Due to the challenging times our country, community and profession are experiencing, Beta Mu decided to answer that call with the backpack for the homeless project in the hopes of infusing joy to the people receiving the backpacks as well as to the people donating,” Dr. Baldwin says.
At the beginning of December, Dr. Baldwin announced the project to College faculty and staff. Beta Mu members would be assembling 12 backpacks – evenly split for female and male recipients – with the goal of distributing them to the homeless prior to Christmas. “We decided this year would be the trial year and next year we plan on increasing the number of backpacks and items,” she says. “Hopefully next year we won’t be dealing with a pandemic, so we will be able to have more volunteers receiving, opening, and disposing of boxes as well as helping pack the backpacks and deliver them.”
Dr. Baldwin solicited donations for the items the backpacks would be stocked with, but the outpouring of generosity came as a welcome surprise. “The project was incredibly successful,” she says. “I was so astonished when everything from the gift registry was bought so quickly. We decided to do the project with an Amazon gift registry due to the pandemic, we did not want to make anyone feel as if they had to put themselves at risk to go to a store.”
All 12 backpacks were packed with essentials, with so many donated items left over that Dr. Baldwin had to take them to Sister José Women’s Center and the Salvation Army Hospitality House. The backpacks were delivered on Dec. 24 to the homeless in Armory Park and Santa Rita Park. “Some were in tears upon receiving the backpack,” Dr. Baldwin says. “I’m proud to witness the way we as a community and profession are rising to the challenge before us in the midst of the biggest challenge our profession has ever seen.”