By Jesse Wood
This past winter, the third annual Winter Warmer Project raised more money than the first two combined, according to Blood Sweat and Gears Ride Director Scott Nelson.
The Blood Sweat and Gears board created the Winter Warmer Project more than two years ago after an outdoor publication in Southern Appalachia tried to hustle a thank-you ad for the riders in Blood Sweat and Gears, a Valle Crucis-based charity ride that celebrates its 19th year next June.
Instead of advertising, the Blood Sweat and Gears organization decided to sponsor a successful clothing drive for local students and community members in need – in addition to donating $5,000 to the Hunger and Health Coalition.
This year, the project raised $15,000 on top of a bunch of warm clothes, including 550 sets of thermal underwear and 250 pairs of DeFeet socks. People from all over the state with connections to Blood Sweat and Gears and the High Country donated coats, hats, gloves and more to help folks stay warm during the coldest months of the year.
This past weekend, volunteers took to sorting the donated goods, which until then were stored in garages, storage units and various other places.
“Oh my goodness. We knew we had a lot but until we put it all in one place,” Nelson said. “There were eight of us there, and it took almost four hours just to get it all sorted, so we are in a position that we can start giving it away.”
On Sunday, Nelson said several groups picked up items. A group from Avery County had a wish list for more than 100 people. They ended up filling a van – and a BSG volunteer’s SUV – full of goods to distribute from Newland to those in need.
Of the $15,000 raised, about $7,000 is for clothing, and Nelson said that BSG board member and volunteer JoLynn Mahoney did the shopping with various retailers, where she found some great deals.
“She stretched the dollar unbelievably,” Nelson said.
The $8,000 of the $15,000 is going to pay for school lunch accounts that are behind in the public school systems of Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties. Nelson said that $4,800 was donated to Avery County Schools and $2,500 to Watauga County Schools for lunch accounts. The remainder is earmarked for Ashe County Schools’ lunch accounts.
Looking forward, Nelson said that Blood Sweat and Gears is going to focus on distribution for the Winter Warmer Project to ensure those that really need the assistance are being helped – and hopefully prevent the arise of the need in the first place.
“We are going to continue this effort [of the Winter Warmer Project] going forward. It’s been a much larger project than we ever envisioned, but we also understand the needs are great,” Nelson said. “So we are going to continue it and keep moving forward and try to make it bigger.”
For more information about Blood Sweat and Gears, click here.