Blankets help keep South Okanagan warm

It’s expected to be a long cold winter. Will you help?

It’s expected to be a long cold winter. Will you help?

That’s how Greg Litwin starts out the flyer for the annual Cover with Kindness blanket drive, which he operates out of his notary public office in downtown Penticton.

These days, bags of warm clothing and blankets line the hallways of his offices, and are slowly filling up all the offices as well.

“One is totally filled to the ceiling, the other is filled where my secretary can still get to her desk,” said Litwin.

Litwin is happy to see the donations coming in, but says there is still more need, need he has seen first-hand as a volunteer and director for the Soupateria Society.

“This is our fourth annual and it is getting bigger and better every year,” said Litwin, pointing out that the need grows too; this year, he said the Soupateria expects to feed about 150 people on Christmas Day.

“All those in need are welcome,” said Litwin, explaining the gifts of warm clothing and blankets are open to more than the Soupateria clients. “Anyone who is in need of warm clothing or blankets.”

Litwin said there are lots of smiles on people receiving the gifts; he remembers one elderly lady overjoyed with her comforter, the first she had owned in her life. The event has grown every year, and now Litwin said there are people specifically making items to help out.

“One fellow hand knitted blankets last year; he said it was really important that he gave them to someone who was going to give them out for free. He didn’t want it sold,” said Litwin.

“Last year, he made about 10 or 15 blankets, and beautiful blankets, I have to say. This time he made toques.”

“Another lady brought in a bag full of matching toques and scarves, which she did for this project,” said Kim Ehlers, Litwin’s assistant.

“It’s really amazing generosity. And it’s fun, people are excited for it.

“There are those who just say how much warmer they are going to be, because they don’t have the money to pay for utilities,” Litwin said.

“What is the choice here? Is it going to be food or utilities, or is it going to be a Christmas present.”

This year, the campaign is distributing the warm items from Dec. 16 to 18, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. through the Free Store at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, next to the Soupateria.

“Last year’s support was so totally overwhelming that we found that one day of gifting or giving, to those in need wasn’t enough, so we are going to spread it out over three days this year,” said Litwin.

Litwin started Cover with Kindness after seeing a similar program helping out people living in Vancouver’s downtown eastside.

“For that year, my wife and I went out and were just going to be buying some blankets for the people we thought were going to be in need,” said Litwin.

“We didn’t think there was going to be that many numbers of people in need, but we were also taken aback by the cost of buying a blanket.”

Litwin added the campaign doesn’t happen without a lot of help. Besides the Soupateria and the Free Store, he is getting help from Dominion Lending, Junior Chamber International, local realtor Steve Thompson and the Bank of Nova Scotia, who are sending a team of a dozen volunteers.

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