GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Do you have a new or gently used blanket lying around that you don't use? Instead of letting it collect dust, the Brown County United Way hopes you'll consider donating it to their 9th annual Blanketing Brown County drive.
At the Howe Community Resource Center in downtown Green Bay, their collection bin is already overflowing.
"This fills an important need. Through the generosity of the community, we've collected over 16,000 over the years," said Dan Wadle, Community Services Liaison with the Brown County United Way.
The donated blankets bring warmth during the harsh Wisconsin winters to homeless and low-income men, women and children.
"Sometimes there's tears. Sometimes there's just that overwhelming joy," explained Howe Community Resource Center Executive Director Amanda Johnson. "To walk out with blankets, especially the little kids when they come in and they get to pick out a blanket, you know they walk out and they have it wrapped around them. You can see how much they appreciate it."
The Howe Community Resource Center is not only one of the donation sites, they also distribute the blankets to struggling families
Wadle said, "We've learned that blankets are used for bedding for instance. That for kids that are what's called couch surfing, where they stay with friends and family, they basically use blankets in place of a bed."
Johnson added, "We also have quite a few families who come in who are experiencing homelessness and they're living in their cars, so a blanket sometimes is the difference between a really cold night and potentially a somewhat more comfortable night."
The blankets bring more than a better night of sleep. For some, it creates a sense of stability.
"Blankets provide security and comfort for kids that maybe are in difficult situations," said Wadle.
"Some of those kids, that's the only thing that they personally own," explained Johnson.
The goal this year for the drive is to collect at least 2,500 donated blankets. There are 50 drop-off sites that include fire stations, YMCA locations, businesses and more.
At the Brown County Central Library in downtown Green Bay, the drive is off to a strong start.
"It's been going great. Every year, we're just overwhelmed by the generosity of our community. We have to empty our collection boxes almost daily because they fill," said Sue Lagerman, Communications and Library Program Manager.
More than 40 Brown County shelters, agencies and programs will receive the blankets to give to those they serve.
"I hope they get a blanket they can use, and I hope they also understand that our community cares," Lagerman said.
Johnson added, "You're devastated that someone is in that situation, but the fact that there's just even a little bit that you can do to make it better, definitely can fulfill your heart."
Blanketing Brown County runs through January 31st. You can also make a donation of money directly to the drive.