Altamont Reformed Church raises money to purchase blankets for refugees and disaster victims.

By Kitt Jackson

For more than 30 years, our church, Altamont Reformed Church, has “blanketed the world with love.” It started in 1985, when the church benevolence committee hosted a fundraiser for Church World Service (CWS), an international relief and development agency. The campaign, called Share the Warmth, raised money to purchase blankets for refugees and disaster victims. Though they’re often overlooked, blankets are essential to survival for many people. That year, our congregation raised $500 for CWS.

Two years later, we held our first Blanket Sunday breakfast, kicking off a month-long campaign to “blanket the world with love.” We have celebrated Blanket Sunday every year since. The breakfast is sponsored by the benevolence committee and gives us an opportunity to enjoy food and fellowship and to learn about the life-saving work of CWS in places like the Philippines, Haiti, Kenya, Serbia, and South America, and in communities in the United States that are affected by floods, tornadoes, and wildfires. Members of the benevolence committee prepare a display about the work of CWS and present a skit or some other interactive presentation to illustrate that work.

In recent years, the campaign has expanded its scope. Now the program, known as Blankets+, provides blankets, tents, and bedding for refugees and disaster victims, as well as the tools, training, and other supplies needed for long-term recovery. We raise funds for a variety of projects, including helping provide access to clean water and adequate sanitation, trauma counseling, micro-loans, school desks and supplies, and community programs that promote sustainable development.

Each year on the first day of the campaign (usually the Sunday closest to Valentine’s Day) we post a large white heart on the wall of the sanctuary. Our goal is to fill the heart with smaller red hearts purchased by members of the congregation for $5 each. The hearts are dedicated in memory or in honor of a loved one—someone who has brought love and warmth to our life. A giraffe named Imani (which means “hope” in Swahili) is our mascot and always makes an appearance, along with a blanket, during the children’s message. This year’s campaign theme was “Blanket the World with Love—Plant Seeds of Hope.”

This year we once again filled the heart by raising $1,500, which brought our cumulative total raised over 32 years to $34,298. CWS has recognized our efforts each year with a “Blanket Honor Church” patch to add to our Blankets+ banner.

We intend to keep raising money for blankets for years to come.

Kitt Jackson is an elder and chair of the benevolence committee at Altamont Reformed Church in Altamont, New York.