The Daily Camera: Hippies head to Mississippi coast

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Local philanthropic young people are teaming up with self-proclaimed, modern-day hippies in Mississippi next week to feed victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Boulder-based Conscious Alliance is using $16,000 raised at a Hurricane Katrina relief concert at the Fox Theatre to buy food for those who need it. The group will go to the Mississippi coast Thursday, purchase at least 20,000 pounds of food and deliver it to food banks and soup kitchens.

"We're going to go down there and fulfill the shelters' wish lists for a week," said Justin Baker executive director of Conscious Alliance, a 3-year-old organization he started after graduating from the University of Colorado.

It will be the nonprofit's third trip to the hard-hit areas along the Gulf Coast. In September, Conscious Alliance took at least 60,000 pounds of food to people in Houston.

The key, Baker said, is the organization's unique approach. Conscious Alliance organizes food drives and raises money at concerts, music festivals and sporting events across the country.

"What makes us so effective is that we're getting people in our age range to donate," said Baker, 25.

The money from the Fox Theatre event will be added to other donations for the latest mission. One of Baker's goals is to provide 3,000 pounds of Thanksgiving dinner and trimmings for the New Waveland Cafe in Waveland, Miss.

The makeshift soup kitchen is feeding 1,000 to 2,000 people a day in the area, said Aaron Funk of the Rainbow Family, also commonly known as modern hippies.

The group \u2014 nonpartisan, nonreligious and loosely organized \u2014 perhaps is better known for its music festivals, tie-dyed T-shirts and unkempt locks. After Katrina destroyed parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, the group sprang into action, helping those in need.

"Rainbow Family has the capability of showing up and feeding large numbers of people with very little food; it's kind of our thing," Funk said. "We've been doing it in remote locations, with no power or anything at our festivals for 33 years."

Boulder resident Randy Chance, a Rainbow Family member, heard about what was happening in Waveland and wanted to do something.

He eventually got in touch with Baker at Conscious Alliance, who took the project by the reins.

"I saw there was a need, and when I was able to make a Rainbow connection to it, I thought that the impact would be a lot greater than my $50 donation to the Red Cross," Chance said.