On Thursday, December 19, Portland resident Libby Carrier and her sons, Devin, 15, and Liam, 12, went to the Eddy Shelter with Holiday/winter gift bags for every man and woman in residence at the shelter. Each bag contained toiletries and other items including gloves, chemical toe and hand warmers, hats, a bus pass, and a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card that will help them get comfortably through the winter. They also donated blankets and winter coats and jackets. Each bag also contained two stamped postcards so that guests can write to family members to let them know they are safe and sheltered.
The gift bag donations were inspired by the death of Libby’s 39-year-old brother, Conrad Cook, who drowned last August in the Charles River near Waltham, Massachusetts. Conrad Cook was homeless.
“Conrad was absolutely brilliant,” Libby says. “He got a full scholarship to Central Connecticut State University and graduated with highest honors with a degree in philosophy.” But Conrad didn’t know what he wanted to do after he graduated from college and never really found himself. He had his first break from reality when he was 34 years old, shortly after having gone to Cambodia to teach English as a second language.
In August 2012, Conrad was living in a homeless shelter in Waltham, Massachusetts, where Libby had visited him on occasion. Although the precise circumstances of his death are unclear, Libby believes firmly that the death was an accident. When Libby learned that her brother had died, she and her family discussed how to honor his memory—and to raise awareness of the fact and causes of homelessness. The family decided they would donate baskets of essentials for homeless people to help them get through the winter comfortably.
Though the family expected to collect $600 and match the donations dollar for dollar, they were surprised to have collected more than $2400 in monetary donations from extended family and friends. Many people also donated winter jackets, blankets, and other items that will help keep Shelter guests warm this winter. “Conrad’s story really touched a lot of people. It means so much to us to do this—I love the thought that someone would have done this for Conrad.” The Eddy Shelter was chosen because it is the “Mom and Pop” shelter in Middletown. “Most of the agencies that serve homeless people are affiliated with huge, national organizations,” Libby says. “We wanted to donate to something more local.”