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Blanketing Arizona warming Arizona’s homeless since 2007

Blanketing Arizona
Photo courtesy Salomon family
Scores of Phoenix homeless line up to receiving blankets, food, and care packages from Blanketing Arizona, a volunteer based organization in Phoenix.

For Arizona’s homeless population, the holiday season is one cold day after another with no way to keep warm. Blanketing Arizona, a not-for-profit organization is working to change all that. Started by my family in 2007, the all-volunteer organization is determined to blanket and clothe as many of Arizona’s homeless as possible, distributing donated blankets every Christmas Eve.

My mother and father, Shaney and Frank Salomon, began the organization Blanketing Arizona in 2007 when I was just 12 years old. Ever since, we have been taking bulk food and blankets to local homeless shelters in Phoenix every year on Dec. 24th. Over the years, the effort has grown into a massive operation that has fed over 1,800 people since its inception.

Whenever on the subject of Blanketing, my mom always says, “We need to give our time to others who are less fortunate and help as many as possible anytime we can.”

This message rings through my ears every time we are setting up for our event.

Entering its sixth year of helping the homeless, Blanketing Arizona is still going strong, handing out hundreds of blankets and serving gallons of chili with the help of hundreds of volunteers on Christmas Eve. We want to make sure everyone leaves warm and with bellies stuffed with quality food.

Every year, the organization operates the same. During the weeks leading up to Dec. 24, volunteers take boxes and distribute them to schools and local businesses in order to begin collecting the hundreds of blankets and warm clothing that are needed for the morning of Christmas Eve. As blankets are being donated and collected, sponsors like Scott’s Generations Deli  at 5555 N. 7th St., are found to supply the chili, cornbread, and coffee needed to keep the needy full for at least the rest of the day.

As D-day approaches, volunteers begin creating small care packages to be handed out along with the blankets and food. These care packages normally consist of the following items: a toothbrush, toothpaste, travel sized shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant, and other personal hygiene products that many of the recipients can’t afford. Once everything is complete and every item is loaded into a 40- foot-long trailer, it is time to put the month’s work into action.

Once the early sun creeps over the mountainous horizon on the morning of Dec. 24th, the trailer is towed into Downtown Phoenix and the process of unloading and setting up begins. Even before everything is set up and ready to go, there is a line of about a hundred people eagerly waiting for their chance to receive their food and blankets. As the morning continues and the word spreads, hundreds more approach and join the line to wait their turns and claim their Christmas gifts.  
As about 50 or so volunteers run around, throwing blankets every which-way, handing out chili and baked goods , the feeling can only be described as an enjoyable chaos. The body and soul grow warmer as each blanket leaves the trailer and the amount of chili in each pot diminishes. When all is said and done, every volunteer departs from the site with a feeling of accomplishment and every needy person walks away warmer, their stomachs no longer growling.

Each year, I eagerly wait for the holiday season. Not just for all of the festivities that take place around this time of year, but also for the warm feelings I get helping out those who are in need. Participating in Blanketing Arizona makes me appreciate what matters in life.

The time is growing close to begin collecting the blankets and rallying the troops for Blanketing Arizona 2012. If you are interested in donating or volunteering you can contact Shaney Salomon at salomonfs@cox.net. She will give you all of the information you need about donation drop off zones and how to get involved. If you want more information about the organization, you can visit www.blanketingarizona.org.

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