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What happens to camping gear, items left behind from Stagecoach and Coachella?

Festival season is officially over, and as hundreds of thousands of visitors head out of the Coachella Valley, many of them are leaving a lot of things behind.

So what happens to the junk people get rid of at Stagecoach and Coachella? In order to find that answer, all you have to do is ask Lupe Torres Hilario. She's the Director of Operations at the Galilee Center in Mecca. Over the past five years, her organization has partnered with Goldenvoice, the creators of the music festivals, to solve the 'lost and found' problem. They work together to make sure perfectly good items don't go to waste.

"Goldenvoice contacted us to see if we wanted to partner with them to to come out and pick up all these leftover donations from the concert goers and campers,” said Hilario.

It all started as a way to keep thousands of pounds of perfectly usable goods out of landfills and, and instead in the hands of people who need them the most.

"So far this year, we're at 65,000 pounds," said Hilario. "Last year, we we picked up 70,000 pounds of donations, and we still have to weigh all the sleeping bags that we picked up today. Slo, we know the number will go up.”

In fact, most of the items they collect are brand new, and donated from friendly festival goers who stayed at the campgrounds.

“A lot of stuff is completely brand new and not even used," said Hilario. "These campers, they buy stuff thinking that they will use it and they end up not using it once. So we get all of the camping gear that gets left behind. Whatever the campers cannot take back with them. Tents, sleeping bags, pillows, ice chests, portable coolers, fans, mirrors, everything that they didn't take back home with them.”

Every Monday after a festival weekend, workers at the Galilee Center head to the Empire Polo Club with a truck to collect the gear.

"We meet sustainability at the at the grounds, and they guide us through the camping sites, and we just talk to the concert goers and see whatever they want to donate," explained Hilario. "We pick it all up, we tear it completely down, and put it into our trucks and drive it out here to our center.”

The items are then sorted rigorously, and cleaned, a process that Hilario says takes several days.

"We have to sort through everything, and put everything in its own pile. All the sleeping bags get sorted and then they get bundled up," said Hilario.

After everything is organized, the Galilee Center distributes the items to people in need.

"A lot of the sleeping bags are used for most of the homeless people that come in and ask us for something to keep them warm wherever they need to spend the night,” said Hilario.

Whatever is left, is marked with a price and then sold at the Galilee Center Thrift Store.

"Everything gets sold, and all of the the profits go towards funding our programs," said Hilario. "Those programs include our rental assistance, utility assistance, our food program, which is feeding 450 families each each week, and our our infant services."

Hilario hopes the partnership between the center and Goldenvoice continue for years to come.

"We try to help the community any way we can, and we would love to keep doing it," said Hilario.

For more information on the Galilee Center, or any of its programs or thrift stores, click here.

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Tori King


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