By Jesse Wood
Feb. 6, 2015. Last fall an outdoor publication in Southern Appalachian emailed Blood Sweat and Gears President Scott Nelson if the charity-ride organization would like to purchase an ad in its magazine thanking the riders for participating.
But instead of throwing money at a magazine advertisement, the board of Blood Sweat and Gears decided to thank its riders in another way – by organizing the “Winter Warmer Project.”
So last December, Appalachian Mountain Brewery hosted the BSG-sponsored drive, inviting folks to bring in new or gently-used coats, blankets, gloves, hats, shoes and other winter apparel to be distributed to local schools and the Health and Hunger Coalition.
In the process about 140 coats, 90 hats, 90 pairs of socks, 45 pairs of gloves and 12 blankets were collected in addition to BSG “taking advantage of Christmas sale” and buying 110 more coats and 40 more blankets,” according to Nelson.
While distributing the blankets to the Health and Hunger Coalition this past week, Nelson said Blood Sweat and Gears noticed that the food pantry at the coalition was nearly empty.
“The flow of food has been sporadic and unreliable … and unacceptable to us,” Nelson said.
So Blood Sweat and Gears decided to donate $5,000 to alleviate the shortage. That amount is enough to feed 125 families for one month, Nelson said.
Hunger and Health Coalition Director Elizabeth Young, who was present when the blankets were distributed, said that one of the clients was so excited at the prospects of receiving a blanket once she saw BSG board members arrive dozens of blankets.
“She told us that she ‘had been without a blanket all winter and only had one kerosene heater to keep her home warm,” Young said. “Needless to say, there weren’t very many dry eyes in our lobby!”
Young praised Blood Sweat and Gears, and Tommy Cline, a full-time volunteer in the food panty, noted how “wonderful” it is to get donations at this time of year because donation activity slows down in early spring.
“With the kindness of BSG, we will be able to stretch the buying power of the dollars given through our relationship with the Food Bank. This gift will go a long way in providing nutrition and sustenance to our local families in need,” Young said.
But Blood Sweat and Gears isn’t done with the Winter Warmer Project. Now it is working on a Winter Warmer Challenge.
Two weeks ago, Nelson said that Blood Sweat and Gears challenged the Hospitality House’s WeCan (Watauga Crisis Assistance Network), which provides funds to citizens facing eviction, utility cutoff or heating shortages, to talk to their donor base and match $3,500.
Well, WeCAn responded, and BSG said it is matching the effort.
“That’ll keep heat turned on in 70 homes for a month,” Nelson said.
The Hospitality House noted in a release announcing the challenge that community members are facing “daunting” challenges with the county poverty rate elevating to 31 percent, the third highest in North Carolina, citing 2013 U.S. Census figures. It also mentioned that median household income for the area is nearly $20,000 below the cost of living, “making it all the more difficult for people to stay warm during a cold, extended winter season.”
“We are thrilled to be working with Blood, Sweat and Gears again this year,” WeCAN coordinator Graham Doege said. “They made such a difference in people’s lives last winter and I can’t thank Scott enough for offering up this challenge to us again.”
In this release on Friday, the Hospitality House noted, “Blood Sweat & Gears needs your support to make this challenge successful. Contributions may be made online at www.HospHouse.org. Donations by check, made out to WeCAN with “BSG Challenge in the memo line, can be mailed to PO Box 309, Boone NC 28607.”
Earlier this week, Nelson sent out an email to those that registered for the Blood Sweat and Gears ride, which takes place on June 27, and asked them for donations to the Winter Warmer Project. Nelson said that $600 has been collected so far.
“Looks like we’re going to buy more blankets,” Nelson said.
One of those people who responded to the Winter Warmer Project email was Jim Olson, a veteran of Blood Sweat and Gears. Olson happens to own Indera Mills in Yadkinville, which manufactures thermal underwear.
“He’s sending about 400 sets of men’s, women’s, and children’s sized thermal underwear for us to distribute throughout the High Country. They were shipped out this afternoon. How can words adequately express our appreciation to Jim?” Nelson asked.
All in all, Nelson said that the Winter Warmer Project is living up to Blood Sweat and Gear’s motto of “helping our community one revolution at a time.”
For further information about Blood, Sweat and Gears please visit www.bloodsweatandgears.org
For more information about the Hunger and Health Coalition, call 828-262-0649 or visit http://hungerandhealthcoalition.com.