300 DAYS

Tyler, Wendy, and I started this crazy journey — 300 days ago! This is going to be long, so I will start with the most important part. Believe in yourself and never let anyone tell you that you are not capable of the things you set out to do. We are all capable of unimaginable things if we have the guts and confidence to try. Very few people believed Tyler could get clean and fewer believed he would go on to impact hundreds of lives in a million different ways (all in 300 days).

I admire Tyler for the way he fights every single day to stay clean and for his willingness to share his journey with others. Being part of his journey has made me a more patient person (always one of my downfalls). I’ve met so many inspiring people in the last 10 months. The three of us are amazed by how many people truly want to help others. When you volunteer with DCS, your life will be changed. It’s impossible to not be moved. Where will we be in another 300 days? I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE. We keep saying, “thank you” to our volunteers and community, but it really doesn’t do our feelings justice. Please know your support is felt by the three of us and beyond.

If you haven’t heard – we are having a gala at Watermark Country Club on Tuesday, February 26. The wonderful people at Watermark Country Club donated their space for our use and we plan to fill every seat. Tickets are available now! Click here for more details and email me if you’re interested in sponsoring and/or providing auction items! stacy@dirtcitysanctuary.org

Skip this section if you have already read the posts on Facebook:


Part 1: By now many of you know of the huge need for winter boots in our community. One of our volunteers literally removed her own boots and went home in socks yesterday. We reached out to Wolverine World Wide and asked for boots for the men and women on our wait list. We were blown away by their response. Next week we will be receiving shipments to cover the people on our list and more. ADDITIONALLY – we received several large boxes stuffed with amazing apparel.

What feels better than getting to know an individual and being able to make an impact on the spot? We want to share that feeling with some of our super heroes who give so much to DCS and/or of themselves to our community. That is why, Jessica Crigier, John Whitten, Brittany Krenzke, Sarah Smith, Mary Ellen Crigier, Jonathan Ted Bates, Elaina and Johan Sebastian Botts, and Mary DeBoer will each be receiving several pairs of the unspoken for boots to give to those in need. Each pair will be marked with a purple J on the bottom. We ask that you share Jordan’s legacy with each person who receives boots. Big thank you to the men and women at Wolverine Boots & Apparel that made this happen!

Part 2: Lots of people are asking when and how they can help next. The DCS team has been hard at work trying to figure out ways we can impact our community before our campus is built. With all of your help and contributions, we’ve served over 500 individuals and given out over $45k in new items in 2018.A person facing homelessness faces more in a day than the average person can imagine. Picture carrying everything you own on your back, every single day. Things are lost and as seasons change, it’s impossible to preserve items. We want to change this.In late March we will be hosting a block party. Individuals can sign up in advance and when they arrive they can pack up their winter items in a box which will be labeled and stored for the winter. New socks and shoes will be provided at this time! There will be two dates in the fall when boxes are returned. Being a DCS block party – there will be food, live music, therapy dogs, several feet care stations, haircuts, and community!Prior to the block party, we are also hosting a gala in February! Email me if you’d like details (stacy@dirtcitysanctuary.org).

We will cap it off with some recent pictures!
Tyler took my basement from huge disaster to clean and organized. Getting wild for 300 days!
You don’t just get an architect with Spark43.
Meredith (pictured) and Mary Ellen KILLED the cleaning portion of PBP prep. THANK YOU!
She is tiny but has a mighty presence and spirit! She brought so many smiles and laughs to the day.
The haircuts are such an important part of our events!
Ashley and her family were there to honor her brother Randy’s memory! It was an honor to spend the day with them.

Support your local Sheldon Cleaners! They have accepted gently used coats for both of our PBP events and cleaned each one free of charge! They have 28 locations and a huge heart for helping out in the community! It all started back in 1949 when George Cares opened the first location.
200 pairs of thermal underwear and we ran out! Thermals (especially the bottoms) are in high demand during the winter months. Happy to know there are 200 individuals a bit warmer tonight.
This Mom makes me feel quite inferior! HA

Julia’s energy is contagious!
When we didn’t have the size boot one of our community members needed, Mary removed her own and left in socks! WHO DOES THAT? What a lady! Another lady worth mentioning is in the background in a purple sweatshirt. Jessica was our MVP on so many different levels. Thank you, Jessica!
The Swineharts just do life right. Happy to know them.
Ended a long and wonderful day with the kids enjoying leftover Bumpy cake from Erika!



Happy 35 weeks and counting!

This past Monday marked 35 weeks since Tyler started his recovery journey and I’m so proud of him for his fight to stay clean and improve the lives of those around him. When people say recovery isn’t easy (or more people would be clean), I can tell you that Tyler has to work at it every single day.

Wendy and Tyler have been working hard on the DCS, Purple Backpack Project and the community has been responding in a huge way! I think this work, knowing he can impact others that are out in the cold as he once was, is one of his biggest motivators for staying clean. It’s like Christmas for the three of us every single time we receive more donations or packages to support the project. If you aren’t aware of the project, it’s an effort to keep our homeless population in Grand Rapids warm and dry as the temperatures start to drop. Perhaps most importantly, we want these people experiencing homelessness to know the community cares. The first distribution of supplies (items ranging from winter outerwear, waterproof hiking backpacks, thermoses with instant coffee and soups, socks and underwear, feminine hygiene products, tents and tarps, wearable sleeping bags, emergency blankets, 2-ride bus passes, and more) is scheduled for November 17 at Heartside Park. It will be an incredibly special event that includes haircuts and hot shaves from Salon Re:, a meal from Amore, and live music from Punch Drunk and the Billies featuring Mary Ellen Crigier and Nelle Peck. The second distribution will be December 22, also at Heartside Park.

Significance of purple: Purple was the favorite color of Jordan Blaauw, the late son of Wendy and John Botts. Jordan’s life was tragically cut short in April 2017 by an accidental fentanyl overdose. The loss of Jordan is a constant ache for those who loved him most and they work to honor his legacy of caring for the neediest among us with this project. His younger sister Elaina and her friend Kennedy brought their school in on the project and are collecting winter hats and gloves in his honor. I think it will be an incredible gift for all that knew him to see the impact he has been able to have, each and every time they see a person wearing one of his purple backpacks – loaded up with supplies that make lives a bit easier and serve as a reminder of love and compassion.

How you can help: The first distribution is just two short weeks away! Donations and contributions of all sizes will make a difference!

  • Share links on your social media page and encourage your friends and family to consider making a donation or volunteering at the event
  • Make a monetary donation (100% of the money donated goes to purchase items from our Purple Backpack List)
  • Shop from our Amazon wish list (items will be shipped directly to DCS)
  • Drop a new or gently used winter coat to a Sheldon Cleaner (they are cleaning each coat received and donating them to our project)
  • Contact Wendy or Tyler about how your employer or school can become involved! wendy@dirtcitysanctuary.org / tyler@dirtcitysanctuary.org

Links to share: 


Tyler and Emily at Grant Christian School – talking to the kids about the Purple Backpack Project
About to go live on WOODTV 8!
Building sand castles
A pair of extra warm mittens Tyler was given when he was homeless – ready to be given to a person in need on November 17!


By: Tyler Trowbridge

All of my life, like many people, I just wanted to be accepted for who I am. I guess this has been a huge struggle for me because I didn’t know who I was. The person that I thought I was, I didn’t like and the person I tried to be, no one else liked. Thinking back on all of the examples of this throughout the 34 years that I’ve lived on this earth, no wonder I tried to calm my racing brain with drugs. Just like before I started self medicating myself, I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Why I am the way I am and why am I so unhappy with myself?

When I’m by myself for too long I sink into this deep loneliness and I try to fool myself by thinking there is some magical cure for it, I just need to figure out what it may be. I beat myself up with the what if’s and what could-have-been. I think a lot of people do this in our world. I think that is why so many people are unhappy and surround themselves with material possessions and numb their minds with chemicals.

I truly believe I’ve made myself suffer enough. I can’t change the bad things I’ve done or take back the hateful words I’ve screamed at the people I loved. I’ve apologized a thousand times for things I don’t even understand. I would like to move on please. I would like to keep the past in the past and come to terms with who I am. I’m a man striving for long term recovery, with a big heart, who would love to make life easier for others. I cannot do this alone. So many people have already offered to help and I’m hoping many others will also. The world is a complicated place because people are suffering, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive and fight for change.

So many people are already walking towards the right path, so I will choose to join them. Maybe this is bullshit, maybe my need to be better is giving me false hope but I need to try. I could have given up and died any one of those cold winter nights with snow falling onto my face, but I didn’t. I was kept alive for a reason and given another chance so I will take it. Thank you with all of my heart to those who never gave up on me. I hope you can be proud of me. It truly is all about the love for me.

An amazing friend Susan who has always accepted me for exactly who I am. 

What it means to me to be sober

By: Tyler Trowbridge

Sobriety is not this easy thing you can just fall into. It’s hard work. It’s waking up every morning and deciding to do the right thing. What is the right thing though? For me, it’s going to treatment. It’s going to ever counseling appointment I have without complaining and trying to get the most out of it. It’s being ready and waiting outside when someone is giving up their important time to help me with a ride or whatever is needed. It’s going to work and doing my best even though I don’t feel good, my whole body hurts, and I don’t wanna be there. It’s being honest, almost to a fault about how I’m feeling and not caring if it sounds like I’m being a whiny bitch. It’s telling someone when I’m having bad thoughts or my brain is telling me to use. It’s making sure I’m being proactive in sabotaging my ability to do anything that would be harmful to myself or those around me.

The other day, someone asked me to go inside their bag and grab something for them. In the bag, there was a full bottle of neurotin. I could have easily taken some and no one would of known. My weekly drug screens would not have detected the drug and I would have been OK. But this is where I’ve been different this time. I would have known and that’s all that matters. I have to hold myself accountable when no one is there. I can’t expect someone else to do this for me the rest of my life. I quickly made the decision to not take any of the medication and walked back to the group. I was still bothered about how I felt. I stayed up the whole night thinking about what could have happened. I’m not someone who can do something one time and put it down. One time will lead to two, which will always lead to three, and so on.

The next day after not being able to flush the thoughts from my mind, I had to call and tell someone I trusted. I knew the person was busy with family stuff but she was proud of me for taking that step of telling another human being. I worry sometimes about telling people things I could do and get away with because it might make them paranoid that I’ll do these things but that’s the whole point. I have to tell on myself. I have to be accountable not only for my actions, but my thoughts and ideas that will lead to those actions.

I get scared a lot that I’m not going to make it. Like I’m not good enough or smart enough to win this battle for my life and the soul contained in my body. Thing is, I have to pull out the upset victory. I know I’m good enough. None of this is a game to me. It’s life or death. I don’t have another go in me. Next time I will die and I don’t want to die. I get down and sad and feel hopeless a lot but there’s one thing I am certain of. Life is worth living. It is all we truly have. I wanna make my time on this planet mean something. I wanna make a lasting impact on how we view and treat each other. Let there be love man. Where there’s love there’s hope and where there’s hope there’s a chance for us to go out and kick some ass.

Let’s help each other. You don’t know what other people have gone through. Maybe one random act of kindness can change someone’s life. It could stop them from making a terrible fucking decision. None of us are alone. We have each other. It’s all about the love.

Tyler ran into the camera man who filmed his first news story last February! *We don’t know why it looks like this pic is filtered lol, it is just blurry! 

Coming Together

Tyler has said various times throughout his journey that recovery is not always what others make it out to be. You don’t get clean and receive a magic ticket to happiness and having your entire life figured out. It is hard; every single day is hard.  He makes me proud because no matter the challenges he faces, he just keeps digging in deep and working to stay focused. Giving hope to others battling substance use disorder and homelessness is one of his top motivations for working so hard on himself.

Wendy and Tyler are currently working on ways to support our homeless community this fall as temperatures start to drop and they are at their most vulnerable. While many people facing homelessness in the winter are able to sleep at a shelter, they have to battle the elements each day. Wendy does this work to honor her late son Jordan who suffered an accidental fentanyl overdose a year ago. Jordan’s birthday is tomorrow and Wendy is really struggling. Please keep her and the rest of Jordan’s family and loved ones in your thoughts as they continue to grieve and process the unimaginable loss of such a special person. Jordan was the type of young man that would have stopped to talk with Tyler and generously gave him what he had to make the day a bit brighter. Tyler shares that same generous and giving spirit.

While some losses are just not right and so unimaginable and some battles we face may seem impossible, coming together and improving the lives of others can return some semblance of meaning and purpose to life. I believe Jordan would feel a tremendous amount of joy and pride knowing what his loved ones and DCS are accomplishing. For Tyler, being able to give back and support others after so many years of struggling himself, means everything.

Read about the amazing success of Wendy’s last campaign here.

Let’s see what ways we can come together and keep improving this community! 

If you or your organization have ideas on ways to support Wendy and Tyler in their efforts to supply backpacks with survival goods and comfort items, please email Wendy or Tyler at: Wendy@dirtcitysanctuary.org // Tyler@dirtcitysanctuary.org.



Kickball kicked our butts!

This past Saturday was our Dirt City Sanctuary kickball tournament at Huff Park and it was a huge success! 9 teams and about 100 kickballing maniacs competed, but it was the Kent County Sheriff’s Department that took home the glory and awesome prize basket! I don’t know how the other players are recovering, but #teamtyler is still in PAIN!

On behalf of Tyler, Wendy, and I, we want to thank the numerous sponsors, volunteers, family and friends, vendors, and of course the amazing teams who pitched in to make the day so much fun! We can’t wait to do it again next year.

If you missed out on the kickball tournament, but are looking for a way to help out with our cause, check out our new help today page on the website!


21 Weeks // 21 Things We’ve Learned

We started this journey 21 weeks ago! It has been hard, exhausting, fun, and filled with ups and downs. Most of all, it has been worth it! Here are 21 things we’ve learned so far:


1.  I don’t have to die young.

2. There are so many people out there that just want to help others. Most of these people want nothing in return, except to see you do good.

3. You’re still going to feel like shit in recovery. I often ask myself why I still feel this way when I’m doing the right thing and staying clean? I thought I would get clean and feel good most of the time. Overall, I wouldn’t give up my new life to return to drugs, but living clean isn’t as easy as I had imagined.

4. It’s OK to trust others; not everyone is going to use you or let you down.

5. If you’re really ready to commit to getting clean, you have to accept that you’re going to spend a lot of time doing things that you don’t want to do. Sometimes you have to relinquish all control, in order to regain control. There isn’t an easy way out, but it will be worth it.

6. My journey isn’t just about not using drugs. I’m working to understand how I process information and how I react to situations.

7. Therapy isn’t always a comfortable thing, but there is value in getting to the core of why I started self medicating in the first place. There is value in learning about myself and how I can move forward in life.

8. Helping others does something for me that nothing else can. When I’m able to see and feel a difference I’ve made in another person’s life, I feel hope and love.

9. Some people hold the view “once a junkie, always a junkie”. The people that matter the most will look deeper and know who you are inside.

10. No matter how low you sink in life, redemption is always available to you if you commit to real change.


11.  When someone commits to starting their recovery process, the focus doesn’t have to be on the number of days since they’ve last used. If everything hinges on the numbers of days clean, the individual might give up after a single slip up. When a slip up happens, remind them why they started on this journey and keep going.

12. It’s easy to believe if a person can just get help, can just get clean that their lives will be easier and everything will be wonderful. It’s important to remember and be open about the fact that recovery is hard work and painful work. Ultimately, it is the right choice, but being clean doesn’t equal a key to endless happiness.

13. Shame and guilt can be huge contributing factors that can keep the cycle of addiction in motion. Don’t pepper a person with reminders of their past when they are working to be better.

14. Recovery is ultimately up to the person fighting the addiction; this does not mean that having a strong support system, even one person showing they care, and others coming together to set the individual up for success can’t make a huge impact on the person fighting to regain their life.

15. Sadly, even with all the love, support of family and friends, and best team of medical providers, a lot of times everything ends up not being enough to save a life.

16. The recovery journey is filled with highs and lows; as a support person, you don’t need to understand or take on each low, you just need to be a consistent presence.

17. It’s not the job of the support person to fix every problem. If the support person is willing to listen, the person you’re supporting can figure out their own way through talking out their struggles.

18. You do not have to have any super powers or special authority to make a change in the system, you just have to  be committed and resourceful.

19. For some people in recovery, medication assisted treatment is the difference between life and death.

20. Don’t let what you know or think you know about one addict cloud your judgement about the next person you meet that is struggling with addiction. One addict isn’t the same as another; that would be like saying every person with breast cancer is just alike.

Stacy and Tyler: 

21. There are opioid alternatives available now that are very widely underused. We are huge advocates for opioid alternatives and will answer any questions you may have about them!