Realtors collecting blankets for the needy

What started as a compassionate offer of simple warmth to those living on the streets in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is now the largest, longest-running charitable blanket and warm clothing collection in the region. Since 1995, more than 165,000 people have received clothing or a blanket from the annual drive from the annual Realtors Care Blanket Drive.
The 17th annual Blanket Drive will run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5 across the Lower Mainland. Thousands of realtors and members of the public are expected to donate. Hundreds of real estate offices will act as drop-off depots and dozens of realtors will pick-up, sort and deliver the donations.
Connecting with people is one of the benefits of the charitable blanket program, says Michele DeFehr, a veteran North Shore Blanket Drive volunteer. "One year, while delivering donations to the Harvest Project, I met a woman living in her vehicle. Her story brought me to tears. While she talked, her German shepherd lay beside her van on an old sheet. She clearly had few personal items, so I offered her some donations. All she wanted was a blanket for her dog."
Fellow realtor, Bonnie Gerbrandt, shares a Blanket Drive memory from Chilliwack. "Last year, I met two people who requested I come to their home to pick up donations. They came from humble beginnings and had experienced what it was like to be cold and hungry. Through their donations, they wanted to pay something back in appreciation of assistance they received years ago."
In Surrey, one of the key Blanket Drive recipients is NightShift Street Ministries, an organization that has been working with poor and homeless people in Whalley since 2004. Nightshift offers outreach services and counseling, and manages clothing and blanket donations through Sisters Thrift Boutique.
"The Realtors Care Blanket Drive is truly a blessing to our street family. We have had years when the donations from this drive have stocked our shelves and bins until early spring. We now see it as an essential partner in helping our community and we sincerely appreciate every single donation," says MaryAnne Connor, Nightshift founder and president.
The eight-day blanket drive, which runs in every community from Whistler to Chilliwack, collects on average 4,300 bags of gently used blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothing and coats; in addition to new socks and underwear for men, women and children.
Donations to the Realtors Care Blanket Drive stay within the communities in which they are donated, or if the volumes are too large, go to charities in greatest need in neighbouring communities. For a list of drop-off locations and charitable recipients, go to

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