It is called “Blanket Bradley County,” and is the result of a pact between some familiar faces: Operation Compassion, Lee University’s Leonard Center and state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland who represents the 24th Legislative District.
As Thanksgiving temperatures plunged, and with the winter months still ahead, the partnership is distributing hundreds of cases of emergency winter-weather blankets. They are being distributed by the Leonard Center and its staff. Most were hand-delivered last week in commemoration of Thanksgiving to emergency operations agencies and to a pair of nonprofit organizations, but even more will be given if needed.
Based in Cleveland, Operation Compassion is a global disaster relief and emergency organization whose reach encircles the globe, but whose help begins in Bradley County, according to a “Blanket Bradley County” news release on behalf of the project partners. As it does worldwide, the OC partnership locally is providing relief assistance in the areas of homelessness, emergency shelters and emergencies services.
The winter-weather or emergency blankets “... are a wool-blend blanket designed for protection in temperatures below zero,” according to information in the news release. Operation Compassion began this program by receiving blankets from charitable partners and directly from blanket manufacturers in quantities in the thousands, the news release explained.
“Thanks to a successful grant application and award, Operation Compassion now has the capacity to distribute 300,000 to 500,000 blankets along the East Coast, Minnesota, the Dakotas, on Indian Reservations near Gallup, N.M., and here at home in Tennessee,” said Dave Lorency, OC president.
Brooks said partnering with this kind of relief effort, especially one whose roots run deep in Cleveland, was a privilege.
“It was an honor to write the letter of recommendation for this grant application for blankets on behalf of Operation Compassion,” Brooks said. “This organization, based right here in Bradley County, has the potential to reach the world with charitable goods and services. I am always thrilled to help them in any way that I can as their local state representative.”
Just a few weeks ago, Brooks was named Outstanding Legislator of the Year by the County Officials Association of Tennessee. He was named as this year’s recipient during the 45th annual COAT conference in Murfreesboro. At the same conference, Bradley County Clerk Donna Simpson completed a one-year term as COAT president.
Of the blanket program, Brooks said its direction by the Leonard Center and Operation Compassion was a “natural fit.”
Dr. William Lamb, director of the Leonard Center at Lee University, was selected as the local liaison for coordinating the distribution of blankets to the group of Bradley County agencies.
“Thank you to Operation Compassion and Rep. Brooks for thinking of the Leonard Center for this blanket project,” Lamb said. “[In two days of distribution last week], we delivered 101 cases of blankets.”
He added, “We provided five emergency service agencies with enough blankets to put two to three in each of their emergency vehicles which will be helpful for them when they are responding to emergency calls in winter conditions.”
Recipient emergency services included Bradley County Fire-Rescue, Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, Bradley County Emergency Medical Service, Cleveland Fire Department and Cleveland Police Department.
“In addition, we delivered blankets to the Cleveland Emergency Shelter and The Caring Place,” Lamb noted. “I have assured the agencies and emergency responders that we would attempt to provide more blankets in the coming days and weeks if they need more.”
Brooks credited the work of both Operation Compassion and the Leonard Center, both of whom he said are “making a tremendous difference in Cleveland and Bradley County, and on behalf of our community’s local residents.”
The longtime state legislator added, “These blankets will help our friends and neighbors keep warm this winter. I can think of no better way to start the holiday season, and to do it during Thanksgiving week, than by joining with these incredible organizations to give the gift of a warm blanket. God has blessed Bradley County and it’s a blessing to help give back.”
For more information on Operation Compassion visit: http://www.operationcompassion.org. For more information on the Leonard Center visit: http://www.leeuniversity.edu/service-learning.
“Blanket Bradley County” is one in a long line of community-help campaigns that are servicing local residents, especially the area families most in need. A variety of community drives are now getting underway. Some, like the Southern Heritage Bank food drive for United Way of Bradley County Inc. partners — which is called “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” — was held prior to Thanksgiving. Others got started during Thanksgiving week.
A variety of additional holiday drives will be kicking off. Many are sponsored through area churches, nonprofit organizations, civic clubs and other groups throughout Cleveland and Bradley County. Over the course of the holiday season, many will be featured by the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Two longstanding campaigns that are supported by area news media outlets are now underway as well.
The William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund, which is named in honor of a former Cleveland Daily Banner editor who died of polio, was launched several weeks ago and continues to receive monetary donations in preparation for distributing as many as 1,100 boxes of food staples to area families in need. The distribution will take place on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, from Tri-State Warehouse. A variety of community and church volunteers coordinate the basket fund which is an established 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is supported with seasonal promotions by the Cleveland Daily Banner.
The Empty Stocking Fund, which supports the Community Christmas Party for Children, kicked off early today at 6 a.m. from the Church of God International Offices. The Empty Stocking Fund is supported by WCLE Mix 104.1. The Christmas Party will be held also on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, from Paul Dana Walker Arena on the Lee University campus. The Empty Stocking Fund was founded in 1970 by Tom and Sandra Rowland when he was affiliated with WCLE Radio, and by a longtime banker and community advocate, the late George R. “Bobby” Taylor who founded Bank of Cleveland.
The Christmas Party was founded by Rev. M.E. Littlefield more than six decades ago. Littlefield also founded Faith Memorial Church whose pastor, David Riggs, continues to work closely to coordinate the Christmas Party.