The Weather Channel helpfully emails me several times a day to inform me that it's cold outside. The most recent email, which they have felt the need to send me four times so far, contained the joyful announcement that more snow is coming to the frozen Mid-Atlantic. Tonight I can expect to be gifted with between two and four inches, which will rest on top of the three inches of snow and ice that arrived just a few days ago.
My comment was that they really need to learn to space these storms out better, so the novelty doesn't wear off so fast.
The truth is that I don't much like the cold. I enjoy snow, to an extent, but thanks to a peculiar hodge-podge of health anomalies, I feel the cold a bit more than most people do. I got a lot of socks for Christmas and I couldn't have been happier about it. So when the colder months settle in these parts, I huddle in my fleece robe and crank up the space heater and think how lucky I am to be able to keep warm.
This, in turn, leads to thoughts about people who aren't quite that lucky.
And that thought is followed, as winter is allegedly followed by spring (though right now that's hard to believe), by a curiosity as to what I might be able to do to help them warm up some.
A bit of poking around has brought to light a few possibilities. If you live near a Burlington Coat Factory location, you can help out with their Warm Hearts and Warm Coats drive, which has been extended until February 13th. Just bring a clean, gently used winter coat to the customer service desk to be given to someone in need. You'll receive 10% off your purchase as a thank-you. This is the fourth year that the drive is being conducted, a joint project by Burlington Coat Factory and Good Morning America, and they're looking to beat last year's tally of 219,762 coats. So far (as of this writing), the official count is at 169,934. It's a perfect time to clean out your closets! They also accept donations of hats, gloves, mittens, and scarves.
While tooling around on the web searching for a couple more ideas to throw into this post, I happened upon the website for Blanket America. It's an interesting concept. This is not a charity, but a company where you can buy products like t-shirts, pillows, and -- of course -- blankets. Simple enough on the surface.
Here's the twist. Every time you buy something from them, they turn around and donate the same item, or a similar item, to someone in need. They call this policy BUY 1, GIVE 1. You buy a blanket, you get a blanket -- and so does someone else. Don't want to buy anything for yourself? That's okay. They also have a form on the website where you can simply purchase items to be donated. A lot of the donations are made domestically (in the United States), as the name implies, but they're also working very closely with the Haitian rebuilding efforts.
Blankets and coats are all very well and good, but you might be wondering about the houses that some people live in. How do you keep your home warm in these harsh economic times? Well, here's an answer to that question too, or at least a possible partial answer. The Dollar Energy Fund is a private non-profit organization that partners with utility companies to help energy to seniors and low-income families. They received the four-star rating from Charity Navigator, which should tell you something about how well they're doing their job. You can make a contribution on their website. Or, if you're already a client of one of the participating utility companies, you can donate every time you pay your bill -- there's an option to have a dollar tacked onto your monthly invoice (that's the title drop there) which will be donated to a family that needs your help to pay their utility bills.
Dollar Energy Fund is located here in my native Pennsylvania, and only serves a few states. However, there are almost certainly similar organizations in your own neck of the woods, so a little investigation is all it will take. If all else fails, call your electric or gas company and find out if they run a program like this in-house, and how you can help.
Well, on that note, I think I'll call it a (very cold) day. I hope that wherever you're enduring this January weather, you're staying warm. Unless, of course, you're in the southern hemisphere...in which case, stay cool!