Warming the Homeless
Edmondite Donna Watson changed the lives of more than 2,000 homeless people around the nation–with one email.
Winter takes a huge toll on the homeless. The freezing cold weather makes their already rough lives even rougher. People can help but don’t know how. Watson has the answer.
One morning, picking up the newspaper and walking the dog in the bitter cold, she wondered what it would be like to sleep all night in the freezing weather. She asked herself, “What if everybody in the country gave a blanket to a person in need?”
By November Watson was on fire with the idea of getting blankets to the homeless this winter. She also knew how to make it happen. “I saw the solution, knew who to talk to and how to put it together. It’s amazing what the Lord can do if you get out of his way and let Him do it,” she says.
The plan was simple. She wrote an email to friends around the country and asked them, “How cold was it last night? What would it be like to be out all night in that cold?” She encouraged them to follow her lead, forward the email and hand out as many blankets as possible before the end of the Christmas season.
All Watson asks of people who donate blankets in response to her email is a simple email or postcard. No last names, no addresses, just first names and a city. Some have written, “I did it. Lois from Hartford.” or “I gave five. Debbie from Reno.”
Word-of-mouth advertising never hurt a cause, either. “I was in Wal-Mart buying blankets on behalf of the people who attend church at the Wellington Retirement Center. As I checked out a woman asked me, ‘Why are you buying these?’”
“I’m buying blankets for people who need them,” Watson said.
“I need one,” said the woman.
Watson asked her to pick one out. “I gave her a blanket and it felt wonderful,” says Watson. “I couldn’t wait to do it again.”
Some people like to give checks to organizations or churches, Watson explains, and may never get personally involved. “People write checks to a church charity and when they’re done, they go Christmas shopping. I carry blankets in my car now, so when I see someone on the street who’s cold, I grab one and hand it out the window.”
This is not an organization, but one individual with an email account. Watson simply brought the idea to people’s attention. “I just started it,” she said. “It’s coming through me, but there are homeless people everywhere. All around the U.S., Mexico, the world. You can hand out blankets all night long in New York City or Chicago.”
On any given night, there are over 2,000,000 homeless people in America. There are thousands in the Oklahoma City metro area alone.
Watson’s goal for her single email is still unfulfilled-1,000,000 blankets and quilts. “I’m looking for a million names so I can go to major media outlets like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times and say, ‘Here are people who care.’” She wants to prove that people in America are united in caring.
One woman, Judi in Philadelphia, wrote to Watson describing how for ten to twelve years she had seen the same guy standing on the street corner down from her house. She even gave him a name, “Michael McDonald,” because he reminded her of a Doobie Brothers member.
After reading a blog with Watson’s idea on it, Judi decided to help and bought a warm blanket. With her grandchildren in tow, she walked up to the man and handed it to him. Twice he asked “Is this for me?” Driving home later that evening, Judi saw “Michael” standing on the side of the street, all wrapped up as usual, with his hands stuck in his pockets and his hat pulled down over his head. But this time, wrapped around his neck like a scarf, was a blue, warm, fuzzy blanket.
While Watson initially set the informal deadline for Christmas, she’s quick to remind people that it doesn’t get any warmer the day after Christmas. “People volunteer during the holidays, and basically for the next ten months we don’t do anything,” Watson says. “The giving needs to continue.”
Like Nike, Watson just wants people to just do it. “Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Just give a blanket,” she says. “Then get the word out. Write your friends an email, stating, ‘I did this because I care, and you should do this, too.’”
Donate a blanket in your area and send Donna a post card or an email. It can be that simple to make a difference. It’s your turn. With your help, it’s possible for 1,000,000 homeless to stay warmer this winter.
Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending a postcard to Crazy Quilts, P.O. Box 195, Edmond, OK 73083, and saying, “I did it!”