By Hailey Blevins
The 5th Annual Winter Warmer Project starts this Saturday, November 10th at Appalachian Mountain Brewery from noon to 7 p.m. The Winter Warmer Project is operated as part of Blood Sweat and Gears (BSG) Events, such as the BSG Bike Ride that saw its 20th anniversary earlier this year on June 23rd.
For those who can’t make it to AMB this Saturday but still want to donate, a collection box will be maintained at AMB all winter. There will also be a donation box at Hair Creations at 643 Greenway Road, Suite K-2 that will be maintained over the winter, as their was last year.
“Last year, we emptied their collection box 10 times over the winter. It was the collection box that just kept giving,” said Scott Nelson.
This year, BSG is adding a new twist to the drive. “We want to ‘Can the Van’ at AMB, said Nelson. There will be a van at AMB that BSG wants to fill with canned and non-perishable foods. These will be distributed to food kitchens throughout the High Country.
Both food and coat donations will be accepted throughout the winter to help make BSG’s slogan for the drive a reality once again, “Helping our community stay warm one revolution at a time.”
You can also donate by registering for BSG Winter Warmer Challenge. $85 is earmarked for the Winter Warmer Project. Or to make a donation, go to https://www.bikereg.com/blood-sweat-and-gears-bike-ride
All net proceeds raised by BSG are donated to help keep those who are financially challenged in the High Country warm. BSG typically donates to food kitchens, schools and social service agencies. They also help those in need by paying utility bills, buying coats, blankets, hats, gloves and socks, donating healthy snacks for schools to distribute, and giving cash donates.
But one of the biggest things BSG does is hold coat/blanket drives. In 2014, Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine identified BSG as the best road cycling event, and BSG was offered a discount to place an ad that spurred the idea for the coat/blanket drive. Instead of advertising, the BSG organization decided to sponsor a clothing drive for local students and community members in need.
“We were told if we wanted to place a “thank you” ad, we could get a great discount that only cost $1,400. Knowing that through a food bank we could purchase the equivalent of $7,000 of food, we respectfully declined. We decided to hold a coat drive and whatever we did not collect, we would purchase at post holiday sales using the $1,400. Along with some donations from BSG riders, we spent $3,000 in the first year.”
By their third year, donations had grown significantly to $15,000. BSG was able to make $8,000 in donations to Avery, Watauga and Ashe County schools “to pay off delinquent school lunch debt for children/families and considered hardship situations by school social workers.”
Last year, the High Country was met with severe cold weather in January. To help meet needs and keep in need families warm, BSG held two coat/blanket drives. “We never got an exact count of what we collected as we literally sorted and distributed almost immediately. I cannot be any more precise than to tell you we had several SUV carloads.”
BSG also collected $30,000 in donations from BSG riders last year, allowing them to make a more concentrated effort to reach “vetted people in need that ‘fall through the cracks.’” Some of these efforts included:
- Buying clothes and household items and paying a towing bill for a new camper after a disabled veteran’s camper, which served as his home, burned down.
- Working with Walmart to provide $500 shopping sprees to two families the Boone Police Department identified as struggling and not likely to have Christmas.
- Going to BREMCO and donating $500 to the account of a local volunteer EMT with a rare bone cancer who had fallen behind on his power bill.
- Donating $5,750 to Avery, Watauga and Ashe County schools to pay off delinquent school debt. (Watauga County school debt has improved from the prior year, but Ashe county’s has gotten worse. Two of five of schools in Ashe have over 70% of the children on free or reduced lunch programs.)