Homelessness is a serious and chronic problem in Colorado. With winter fast approaching, life becomes even more difficult for those who have no shelter.
The Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association has launched a new program to help the homeless in communities across the state. It’s called "Tree Wrap for the Homeless" and the concept is simple: collect blankets that will be donated to shelters and service organizations who can distribute them to the homeless.
Ben Northcutt, membership manager of CNGA, set a goal of 300 blankets for this first-time event. The reception has been encouraging so far, he said. A dozen CNGA members are participating as drop-off centers. About a week into the donation drive, 75 blankets have been received. The donation drive will continue through the Thanksgiving holiday into December.
After the event ends on Dec. 11, CNGA will take the blankets to four organizations. In Denver, the Samaritan House and Denver Rescue Mission are both happy to receive and distribute the donated blankets. The other two participating organizations are the Fort Collins Rescue Mission and the Colorado Springs Rescue Mission.
This is the first time CNGA has attempted this type of service project, but Northcutt sees the possibility of a new annual tradition.
“We wanted something very simple but yet had some reach to it and a bit of an emotional hook,” he said “Our Outreach Committee said ‘Let’s give it a try, it doesn’t sound complicated.’”
Northcutt said the idea for the name came from Mike Bone, a CNGA board member from the Denver Botanic Garden, who drew the connection between wrapping trees for warmth in the winter and wrapping people in need with blankets of warmth.
“Tree wrap is a paperlike product that you literally wrap a young tree with, particularly going into winter,” Northcutt said. “Newly planted trees are susceptible to sun scald, dehydration and wind burn, things that can injure a tree in its first couple years.”
CNGA member businesses that want to serve as collection sites educate and inform their staff and customers about the program. CNGA created a sign that can help explain the Tree Wrap for the Homeless project that can be placed on a door or counter. Northcutt said he’s left it up to the individual participating companies how to promote it in their stores or via social media.
Blankets are currently being collected at more than a dozen participating CNGA member businesses in the Denver metro area, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Brighton.
If you live along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and have a blanket to donate, click here to see a list of drop-off locations.
“It’s simple and it’s something that the organizations that serve homeless people can use,” Northcutt said. “It’s going to a good cause, particularly at the holiday season when people are in the giving spirit.”