DENVER — With millions of people traveling through Denver International Airport every month, sometimes people leave things behind. Hundreds of pieces of empty, abandoned luggage end up in the loading docks of DIA every year. But they don’t end up in landfills. They end up donated to the homeless community of Denver.
“That’s a lot of abandoned luggage, and we’re really happy we’re giving it new life,” said DIA spokesperson Emily Williams.
Williams says the majority of the luggage is left abandoned near trash cans at the airport.
“Maybe it’s missing a wheel or the handle is stuck or zipper," she said. "Often I think people leave it because they realize that the third bag is a lot more expensive than they thought.”
Denver police screen all luggage that’s found. If there are any contents, it goes to lost and found. The bags are then stacked in the loading docks, awaiting a new home.
“The Rescue Mission comes out every two weeks and picks up some of that abandoned luggage,” said Williams.
Team members from the Rescue Mission load up a truck and drive it to their Mission Outreach Center.
“And we, in turn, give that to the community,” said Jeff Dines, a warehouse supervisor at the Rescue Mission.
The luggage is distributed from the Outreach Center, from the Lawrence Street Community Center, and to people in transitional housing program.
“It’s a big deal, luggage is expensive,” said Dines. “And it serves the purpose of transporting and storing items that these people don’t have a means to do.”
Last year, more than 800 pieces of luggage were donated from the airport to community groups. That number could top 1,000 in 2019.
“This is certainly a need of the community that we’ve really partnered with DIA and thankful to have,” said Dines.
“It’s great that these bags that seemed they had reached the end of their lives can continue on and really help someone out,” said Williams.
The Rescue Mission is in need of additional donations, including luggage.
Baggage that doesn't end up with the Rescue Mission is given to other community organizations or groups. Some of the remaining luggage is donated to Denver Police to use with K9 detection training.