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Charity recycles for blankets for homeless

May 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
In Santa Monica, a young woman with a skeptical eye for big charities has figured out a way to turn recyclables into blankets for the homeless. "Project Blanket" has taken its outreach directly to the streets. Every few weeks, Jessica Correa and her band of volunteers head out after dark, looking for the people most of us try to overlook; the hungry and the homeless.

On any night in Santa Monica's 3rd Street Promenade, Project Blanket does not have to look far. Jessica approaches a homeless man sitting in front of a store and puts a blanket over him, then offers him a sandwich and water bottle. Jessica says she tries to live by the motto of compassion, 'One blanket at a time.'

"We see a lot of homeless sleeping on the ground with nothing, with just newspapers. They have nothing so we give them a blanket," says Jessica. "We acknowledge their presence, we acknowledge their pain and we acknowledge that they exist because most people don't want to."

Jessica collects her recycling and exchanges it for cash. That cash is then used to purchase blankets for the homeless. She says a total of $40 is good for 15 blankets.

She knows that it is hard work to ask people for money for the homeless when budgets are so tight so she is not asking for money. "A lot of people don't believe in non-profits anymore. They don't believe in their mission statements. They don't believe that the money even goes to helping people so I tell the people, 'I don't need your money. I need you to give me your recycling,'" said Jessica.

But an unexpected unwelcome reception by a security officer at the Promenade stopped Jessica in her tracks to let her know that she could not pass out the blankets.

"You can't do this. There are places and organizations that give out things to homeless people. You can takes these and do that there but you cannot give them out here individually to people," said the security officer while talking to Jessica.

Jessica told Eyewitness News, "I've been doing this over a year and not once have they ever done this."

Jessica, who works fulltime by day, is joined by friends and young volunteers who believe in what they are doing.

"We actually have to work. It's not just people who are donating money or giving money. It's not just money out of pocket. We're actually doing something to give back," said volunteer Chris Rougier.

And for the homeless and the poor, sometimes a blanket is the only shelter they'll have for the night.

"Because blankets I can cover up with it," said Kirk Wilkins who is homeless. "Yes, it keeps me warm."

And when the blankets have all been given out, Project Blanket will go back to the recycling bin to start all over again.

To learn how you can contribute to Project Blanket you can visit them at their website at Myspace.com/Project_Blanket or call their number at (323) 334-5080.


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