Red Cross’ Blanket Days campaign warming up; agency seeking donations

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 19, 2008

“Peanuts” character Linus is not the only one who appreciates a warm blanket.

Recognizing this, Vicksburg’s American Red Cross chapter has launched its annual Blanket Days campaign. Helping to warm and comfort people who have suffered a home fire is a job emergency services director Janice Sawyer cherishes.

“If they’ve lost everything they had, the blanket gives them some comfort,” Sawyer said. “If we can give them just something to call their own, then we’ve made a difference. And the more I’m able to assist them, the better I feel when I leave this office.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Blanket Days aims to collect blankets — and take donations to purchase them — for elderly and fire victims in the city, Warren County and neighboring counties including Sharkey, Claiborne and Issaquena. The drive generally kicks off in October because that’s when people start thinking about cooler weather, she said, adding, “we use those blankets year round, though.”

The campaign was initiated several years ago, and last year 700 blankets were collected by the agency. “That kind of generosity is what makes Vicksburg special,” Sawyer said.

Several fires in apartment complexes in recent months displaced more than 60 residents, she said.

“What you see in the paper are hurricanes and tornados, but what we deal with on a daily basis are fires,” said Sawyer. “Every house fire client gets a blanket of their own, and every elderly person that comes in here who can’t pay their heating bill gets a blanket.”

Blankets are offered as a comfort measure but, more practically, Red Cross volunteers jump into action as soon as they hear a fire call go out over the emergency services scanner or are called by a responding fire department. The agency finds lodging for displaced victims, and gives out food vouchers, clothing and comfort kits containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and other toiletries. Stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls are also available, donated by The Walt Disney Company and appreciated even by some of the adults who get displaced, Sawyer said.

The Help a Friend Campaign, initiated several years ago to secure deals with area hotels, provides temporary lodging at free or reduced rates to the Red Cross for their fire clients, which allows the emergency services staff to shift money that might have been spent on lodging into food and clothing.

“My grandmother taught me that if you give, it comes back to you,” Sawyer said.

The local agency boasts more than 100 volunteers, and 50 more went through shelter training last Saturday. “We have a generous, compassionate community here in Vicksburg, and we couldn’t do any of this without them,” she added.

Blankets and can be brought to the central fire station at 1630 Walnut St. The greatest demand is for twin-size blankets, but any size is acceptable. “They appreciate anything that we can give them,” Sawyer said.