Waste not, want not: Firefly leftovers collected for Code Purple Kent County

By Mike Finney
Posted 9/27/21

DOVER — Perhaps Ennio Emmanuel, director of Code Purple Kent County, said it best when he looked around the mostly vacated campgrounds at the concluded Firefly Music Festival on Monday and said, “One person’s trash is another one’s treasure.”

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Waste not, want not: Firefly leftovers collected for Code Purple Kent County

Posted

DOVER — Perhaps Ennio Emmanuel, director of Code Purple Kent County, said it best when he looked around the mostly vacated campgrounds at the concluded Firefly Music Festival on Monday and said, “One person’s trash is another one’s treasure.”

That’s exactly what Code Purple — and its army of around 125 volunteers from 16 local organizations and businesses — were counting on, as they sifted through the remnants around the massive Lot 18, behind the main festival area in the Woodlands.

Firefly is usually a boon for Code Purple, as campers often leave behind what they deem not worth the trouble of lugging back home.

This includes tents, chairs, mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets, coolers, barbecues, cookware, cans of food and bottles of water, as well as several other items that could be repurposed and used by the less fortunate.

Code Purple is an initiative that keeps the homeless out of the cold by providing shelter and warm meals overnight through the winter, but it also remains plenty busy in other seasons.

Deep Water Church Pastor Jeff Dyer — organizing his sixth post-Firefly collection — said the event has grown immensely from its humble beginnings, when around eight people gathered and filled up the beds of three pickup trucks.

It was a welcome return to normalcy for Pastor Dyer and others from his Wyoming church, who get involved each year in the cleanup, though 2020’s event was scratched because Firefly was canceled due to the pandemic.

“We’re glad to be back here,” Pastor Dyer said. “We always get a lot of stuff that we can use to help people, and Firefly folks are really generous in helping us acquire all that stuff.

“We’re getting some nice sleeping bags and all kinds of tents and things. You never know what you’re going to find out here, but I know that we will end up with a lot of cool stuff. It’s amazing. You find some things you never thought that somebody would bring to a campground. I always tell the volunteers, ‘You never know what you’re going to get.’”

For instance, there were lots and lots of discarded shoes and boots — soggy casualties of the first day of the festival Thursday — that can be cleaned up and donated.

Volunteers love ‘doing their part’

Volunteer Frances Cordell of Millsboro said she likes to do whatever she can to help Code Purple keep the homeless out of the cold when the temperature drops to dangerous levels.

“I like to be involved in Code Purple, and I’ve done it in the past,” she said. “I’ve donated goods to Code Purple and help out sometimes with meals and stuff like that — whatever I can do to help.

“This is only my second time doing the cleanup. Of course, last year, we couldn’t do it because of COVID. It’s good that stuff doesn’t go to waste, and it can be used for something that does the whole community good.”

James Allen is from Dover, and he wasn’t intimidated by the massive piles of leftovers discarded by festivalgoers Monday.

In fact, he said he’s been there and done that.

“I’ve done a lot of work at the (NASCAR) races before, so I’ve seen worse,” said Mr. Allen. “I actually worked doing the trash during the race, and it was like 15 hours a day dumping trash, so this isn’t too bad.

“I find this to be service work, and it’s really important to get out and help the community and things like that.”

Babita Jagnanan, who came to the campground to help Phoenix Used Clothing of New Castle, said that projects like the Firefly cleanup benefit everyone.

“It’s really amazing because it brings together everyone for one common goal — keeping Delaware clean and giving back to our community. So we’re just all excited to be here to be a part of Code Purple, part of a recovery community and part of an outreach to keep our environment clean. Everybody wins — the planet wins, we win, everyone wins.”

Turnout remains strong despite year off

Mr. Emmanuel said he is very thankful that festival organizers and Dover Downs officials call on Code Purple to help out.

He said he found out how much he missed it when the Firefly cleanup was canceled amid COVID-19 last year.

“This is great, especially after last year, when we didn’t have it,” said Mr. Emmanuel. “We usually would have two large 30-foot-by-10-foot units filled with sleeping bags, tarps, grills, propane tanks, coolers, and then, last year, we didn’t have anything, … so we’re really excited this year to be able to get back and do it.

“We didn’t know how the turnout would be, but it’s something that’s ingrained in some companies and businesses that do it together as a team-building exercise. Some churches also come, and they like it, and they’re Cope Purple supporters, as well.”

The volunteers for Code Purple began arriving on the scene around 10 a.m. Monday — clad in bright purple T-shirts — and remained all day, trolling the vast campgrounds and filling up a pair of large moving vans donated by Two Men and a Truck, as well as some other vehicles.

Pastor Dyer and Mr. Emmanuel have the day after Firefly circled on their calendars all year long. It has turned into an amazing charitable initiative, during which volunteers for Code Purple collected 250 tents back in 2018.

“It’s funny how many people haven’t heard about (the Firefly cleanup) before,” Pastor Dyer said. “Other people are used to it, but they didn’t know that we’re still doing it.

“We’ve been doing it since the first year (2015), which was just three pickup trucks and a couple of guys we gathered at church the day before, and we came out and did it. Looking around at all of the volunteers that we have now, you could say we’ve come a long way since then.”