DENVER - This is the time of year Danny Felipe-Morales, Information Technology Operations Coordinator at the University of Colorado Denver, starts spinning the mileage on his Hummer and losing tread on his shoes.
Felipe-Morales is in the fourth year of his Annual Blanket Drive for the Homeless, which last year collected a record 347 blankets as well as 82 pairs of socks. Around the first cold snap every winter and several weeks before the holidays, he circulates an email to the university community that he is again collecting blankets, socks and -- new this year -- coats. He distributes the warm items for the city's homeless men, women and children at shelters around Denver.
No need to take donated items to Felipe-Morales. He will come to you.
The idea came to Felipe-Morales one bitterly cold evening in winter 2008-09 when, as he left his office at the CU Building, he saw an old man shivering on a bench along the Cherry Creek bike path. He asked the man to join him for a coffee and sandwiches at a nearby Starbucks. He learned that the man was from California and unaccustomed to the cold, which plunged to record low temperatures on that early December day. Felipe-Morales then convinced the man to go to the Denver Rescue Mission. While there, he learned that blankets are the main item needed by the shelter during winter.
"That night I went back to the office, wrote up this email to my coworkers, friends and family," Felipe-Morales says. "It was just a summary of what happened and telling them if they were able to donate any blankets to let me know. I told them I'll collect them, I'll go pick them up and take them to the shelters."
The first year he collected 113 blankets. The second year he collected 142 blankets and 156 pairs of socks. Last year he brought in 347 blankets, helped by an article about his drive that appeared in the magazine 5280. He ended up getting calls from contributors as far away as Vail, Breckenridge and Colorado Springs. Felipe-Morales drove to Vail; he drove halfway to the Springs for a meet-up.
As of Dec. 7 this year, he'd collected 35 blankets, 10 pairs of socks and three coats. He expects he will surpass last year's blanket total. This year's drive will last until Feb. 27, 2012, to coincide with the university's annual Giving Back Holiday Campaign.
He notes that the Denver Post recently reported that the winter homeless population is predicted to increase 15 to 20 percent. Felipe-Morales says "even one blanket makes a difference."
He know firsthand how one action can have a ripple effect.
"It's interesting how in just that one moment where I just helped that one person turned into something so big," he says. "If it's working, I won't stop doing it."
Felipe-Morales encourages anyone to donate. If you have any questions, contact him at Daniel.FelipeMorales@ucdenver.edu.
Visit the Giving Back website to read stories about the efforts made in this year's campaign.
(Photo caption: Danny Felipe-Morales delivers a bag-full of blankets and coats to the Denver Rescue Mission. His annual collection drive will continue until Feb. 27, 2012.)
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