Local business association holds blanket drive


With another Minnesota winter around the corner, the warmth of a blanket will make some feel like they’re at home, even if they don’t have one. The Minnesota Cleaners Association is having its fourth annual blanket drive, which began Sept. 1 and ends Oct. 31.

The two-month drive will collect donated blankets from participating cleaners and bring them to Sharing and Caring Hands, a Minneapolis-based relief organization for the poor. Sharing and Caring Hands then will distribute the blankets among the needy.

The drive is intended to fight the cold winter for those who will be on the street or without a heat source by providing them a little warmth.

Mary Jo Copeland, founder of Sharing and Caring Hands, said there is a great need for blankets in Minnesota.

There are only so many resources for the more than 1,000 people who come through the shelter every day, Copeland said.

Summer isn’t too hard, she said, but during winter, a lot of people don’t have any heat or have to live on the streets and are forced to fight the elements. That’s why blankets are one of the biggest donations the organization asks for, she said.

“You know there are a lot of people living in poverty – not just homeless – that can use blankets,” she said. “It’s been a great need.”

Copeland, who founded the organization in 1985, does not receive any money from the government, instead relying on private funding. The organization spends more than $300,000 each month to help the poor.

“Since I am not government-funded, I don’t have to worry about following certain rules and keeping track of every blanket and instead can just give blankets to those who need them,” she said.

Sharing and Caring Hands, which is run by volunteers with a few paid staff members, serves three meals a day and sees more than 20,000 people come through the shelter each month. Copeland does not receive a salary.

“I’m here to make sure I can help a lot of these people,” Copeland said.

Pedro Patia, a Gopher Cleaners employee, said his location stopped taking blankets for the drive after homeless people threw pop at the building.

Patia said a group of about 10 homeless people gathers near his cleaner’s location on Fourth Street Southeast and has been nothing but trouble by harassing customers, getting high in the back of the building and throwing trash.

“I don’t think they should get any help because they are just a bad people,” he said. “You know, they are just a headache.”

Amber Bullock, the Minnesota Cleaners Association executive director, said the drive collected more than 3,500 blankets last year.

Bullock said the drive began four years ago when the cleaners started getting blankets people were giving away. The Minnesota Cleaners Association started looking for a charity to donate the blankets to and decided on Sharing and Caring Hands, she said.

“We want to keep people in Minnesota warm; a lot of these go to children,” she said. “We all know how cold (winter) gets.”

More than 100 cleaners in the association are participating in the drive. Cleaners that aren’t members know about the drive and will also accept donated blankets, Bullock said.

“A half hour after they get to the shelter, they are given to someone. It’s a quick turnover,” she said. “So we know that people get them that need them.”

Patia said he doesn’t think the drive is a good idea because he saw homeless people throwing blankets away.

“So what is the reason that we give blankets to them when they don’t use it?” he said.