Once again, the Cover with Kindness blanket drive is asking the question, will you help?
By mid-December, campaign organizer Greg Litwin is hoping his downtown Penticton office is stuffed full of warm clothes and blankets.
This is Litwin’s fifth annual blanket drive, where he, along with his wife, staff and volunteers collect warm items and distribute them to those in need through the cold winter months.
Last year was the event’s most successful drive, distributing blankets, sleeping bags and warm winter clothing to more than 300 people. They’re looking for blankets, sleeping bags, toques, scarves, gloves/mittens and winter coats, new or gently used to give to the homeless and those in need.
By the first week of December last year, one office was completely filled with items, while the other only had enough room left for his secretary to get to her desk. Other offerings overflowed out into the hallways. Litwin doesn’t mind. He’s hoping to be even more crowded this year, to help with growing need.
“We got started right after remembrance day and it was super cold. We have managed to give out a few things already, blankets and warm clothes, over at the soup kitchen, during that cold spell we had,” he said. “We do have other things coming in daily. There was a lady that hand knitted some beautiful toques.”
They’re not the first hand-made items donated to the annual drive. In the past, there have been hand-knitted blankets, scarves, toques and gloves.
“It never ceases to amaze me, the generosity of the people of Penticton,” said Litwin. “These are beautiful toques, it took an awful lot of time to do that.
“It’s really nice to be part of it. It just makes it a little bit brighter for those folks. If you see the faces of these people when you give, it’s cool to see.”
Litwin stresses that the donation will be distributed not just to Soupateria clients, but anyone in need.
“Some of these people they have a choice of paying the utility bill or buying food, so you have the think the heat is cranked way down low. The blankets are not just for street people, these are for inside too,” said Litwin.
The campaign doesn’t happen without a lot of help. Besides the Soupateria and Pat Simon of the Free Store at St. Saviour’s Church, he is getting help from Dominion Lending, Junior Chamber International and many other businesses and individual volunteers. This year, the warm items will be distributed over three days, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 15 to 17 at St. Saviour’s Church Hall. 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.”