Annual Blanket Drive

EVERYTHING you might want to know about the Winter Blanket Drive!

Last year we took some time and spoke with staff and clients about what works best. We REALLY need specific blankets, because the size and what the blankets are made of matters SO MUCH. In the past, many good people with the best intentions dropped off blankets, bedspreads, and throws that we couldn’t use. So here’s all the details (and a bit of back story) about how to best help!

We know that this is a shift in thinking, to spend $20 on a single blanket.

But the blanket you donate will be in use, truly valued, for the entire winter.

Instead of a series of smaller investments—blessing bags, snack bars, etc.—the blanket choice has serious, lasting impact.

TYPE of blanket:

Wool blankets are a no-go, because most people living rough have skin damage and the wool is terribly irritating to wind/sun burned skin.

Cotton blankets are a no-go, because they soak up moisture from dew/rain/sleet and they become too heavy to carry and there is no way to dry them.

Acrylic blankets like the ones we have provided links for (below) are the BEST choice. They are lightweight, repel water, and keep the wind and cold away.

SIZE of blanket:

Small blankets don’t keep out the wind and cold. Our clients are adult men, and they know small throws won’t keep them warm.

Blankets smaller than 66” x 90” are not large enough to wrap up in, and when we offer smaller blankets we understand why clients turn them down or abandon them. If you have to carry everything you own/need with you, you really choose those things that are useful to be worth the weight.

THE TALE OF LAST YEAR’S INCREDIBLE BLANKET DRIVE!

Last year, in November 2019, we shared our Braver, Better Blanket Drive flyer with the media and the public. We had no idea if total strangers would send a brand new blanket to a stranger experiencing homelessness. The best drive in the past had only netted about 300 blankets. Last year’s drive generated over 1,000 blankets!

Here are links for a few blankets that fit the bill:

VEEYOO Fleece Blanket
Twin: $21.99

DLLStore Blanket
Twin: $14.46

Kohls Vellux
Twin: $15.99

People ordering online should ship the blankets to:
Front Steps (ARCH)
ATTN: Amy Price
500 E. 7th St.
Austin, TX 78701

AND THEN THE MAGIC HAPPENED!

Hundreds of people from across the state (and a few from across the nation and one generous family from Canada!) ordered brand new, large blankets to be shipped to our shelter. Some came with notes that were incredibly heartwarming, and, of course, every blanket was warmth itself. We wondered if people would send a new blanket to a stranger in need, now we know!!! If you were one of our 2019 donors, accept all our LOVE. For the weeks that followed the launch of last year’s drive, we got to know the delivery drivers on a first name basis, as they were spending so much time bringing blankets to the shelter. We felt rich, and the excitement of handing a new, large blanket to a client was INCREDIBLE. Every client (inside or outside the shelter) who asked for a blanket was given one. Some went to recently housed clients who didn’t have much in their new spaces. It was such a rare feeling to have enough of a resource to be able to meet demand. And we want to stress that clients were holding on to the blankets. They knew that it was a rare treat, and they wouldn’t get another new blanket that big again, so we saw blankets being kept with clients as sarongs, serapes, bedrolls, and draped over walkers. Best. Blanket. Drive. Ever.

And the UNEXPECTED notes that revealed humor and grace…

Beyond the blessing of the blankets–there was more joy to be discovered! Many of the blankets arrived with a “gift note” enclosed. We began sharing the notes via social media, and people loved reading the caring messages that were tucked into boxes. That became a whole thing for months, we also posted lists of the first names of donors–and it just made it more fun! There were notes from “Santa” and notes from veterans. There were notes to the staff, and notes to the clients. We laughed and cried and were charmed that our followers on social media felt the same way!

Considering a blanket drive where you live/work?

People who want to purchase locally can drop off their blankets at the shelter.

We would suggest that anyone having a Blanket Drive at their workplace/congregation/neighborhood collect all the blankets and we can arrange for a single drop off or pick up.

Contact Amy Price at aprice@frontsteps.org with questions.

A few weeks after we began handing out blankets to clients, I was downtown at the Paramount on Congress for a holiday movie with my kids. We parked a few blocks away on a cold December night, and as we walked to the theatre I began seeing the blanket drive blankets. Since we suggested one of two specific blankets on Amazon, 90+% of the blankets that arrived were one of those two styles. I had unpacked so many that I knew the color and sheen of the blankets on sight. To see men and women wrapped up in these blankets was a bittersweet thing. It hurts to see un-sheltered individuals, it makes you wonder what we can do better, or more of, to get these individuals into stable housing. But seeing people completely covered in a new blanket that was truly large enough to keep someone warmer…well…that was beautiful. I mentioned it at work the next day, and my colleagues shared stories of seeing the blankets around the city too. We all felt part of something special, we have never been able to distribute so many blankets, new blankets, or large blankets in all our years of this work. Throughout the winter, even when I saw someone sleeping in an alley at 3 am, at least I felt a bit less anguished when I saw these blankets providing some comfort.

Amy Price, Director of Development