Spread warmth with blanket drive

Maple Ridge realtors joining cause that makes a difference for those in need

It’s easy to wrap yourself in the warmth of giving this week by cleaning out your closets and filling the local realty offices with blankets, coats, mittens and more as part of the 18th annual Realtors Care blanket drive.

McDonald Realty’s Jewel Yourchek has been part of the campaign for the past four years and has watched the drive become more successful each year as people open their hearts to help both the homeless and those struggling to make ends meet.

“This is a cause we can all get behind to make a difference for people who really need it,” Yourchek says of the blanket drive, which runs until Monday, December 3.

And she knows just how direct that help can be.

Earlier this week, Yourchek left a local dry cleaners with a gorgeous down-filled blanket destined for the blanket drive pile and moments later saw a woman sitting quietly at the corner of 224th St. and Selkirk Avenue. She asked the woman if she could use a warm blanket and returned in minutes with the duvet.

Yourchek’s 18-year-old daughter was with her at the time and sharing this moment with her made the hectic weeks of planning, collecting and sorting blankets worth every moment, she says.

“We try to pass on the spirit of compassion and giving,” she says. “Sometimes we don’t see the need when we live securely in our own homes.”

While the tangible life-saving support of blankets and clothing is clearly needed, the act of showing those struggling in our community that they are remembered and cared for is just as valuable, she says.

“The blankets also tell people that others care and place value on their lives.”

The first blanket drive started much the same way as Yourchek’s simple decision to reach out to one other person on the street.

Back in 1995, Vancouver realtor Don MacKay was driving by Hastings and Main streets in Vancouver on a cold and rainy night and thought he should do something. He brought his idea to collect blankets to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver board of directors and the drive was started immediately.

“I always believed we should give back to our community,” he says on the 18th anniversary in a REBGV video interview about his role. “Let’s face it, most of us do really well and the need is big or bigger than ever. We should be taking more initiative to help those who are less fortunate than us.”

Realtors, their clients, and their communities have taken that to heart and the blanket drive is now held from Whistler to Chilliwack, with help going to about 20,000 vulnerable people, according to the REBGV.

But unfortunately that need is growing both regionally and locally, with estimates of about 2,600 homeless people on Metro Vancouver streets and more families and seniors struggling to make ends meet in the tough economic times.

The Salvation Army’s Caring Place director Darrell Pilgrim is seeing more vulnerable seniors this year and has noticed the cost of living and economic downturn has hit seniors hard.  Community efforts like the Realtors Care blanket drive are vital, he says

“We couldn’t do what we do without their assistance,” Pilgrim says. “It makes a huge difference.”

Last year the blanket drive gathered up about 300 bags stuffed with warm blankets and clothes, and as the weather dips below zero, Yourchek is hoping to better that number this year.

“Every year seems to brings more than the year before,” she says.

She is looking for donations of gently used blankets, jackets, scarves, and mittens for both adults and children.

New socks and underwear will also be accepted. Items must be donated by Monday, Dec. 3, when Yourchek and her team will distribute them to the Salvation Army Caring Place and the Alouette Homestart outreach workers.

Drop off locations

You can drop the items off at realty offices in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows: Coldwell Banker Tri-Tel Realty, 22519 Dewdney Trunk Rd.; Homelife Trendsetter Realty, 200 – 22728 Dewdney Trunk Rd.; Keller Williams Elite Realty, 550 – 20395 Lougheed Hwy.; Macdonald Realty Ltd., 22718 Lougheed Hwy; Royal LePage-Brookside Realty, 11933 – 224th Street; RE/MAX Lifestyles Realty, 22308 Dewdney Trunk Rd.; RE/MAX Results Realty, 20842 Lougheed Hwy.; RE/MAX Lifestyles Realty (Pitt Meadows), No. 2 – 19126 Ford Road.

If you can’t get to an office to drop your items off you can, call Yourchek at her Macdonald Realty Ltd. office at 604-467-3871.