Aucklanders donate thousands of blankets for families living in poverty

Donna Sarten surrounded by warm bedding to be donated to children in cold houses.
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Donna Sarten surrounded by warm bedding to be donated to children in cold houses.

Aucklanders have donated nearly 4000 blankets to help children living in poverty brave the winter. 

Auckland artists Bernie Harfleet and Donna Turtle Sarten started the Give a Kid a Blanket campaign as a community activated art auction in 2015 when a coroner's report revealed that a cold, damp house contributed towards the death of an Auckland 2-year-old.

"It was very sad, but it got us thinking - maybe we can't solve the problem, but we can help warm up Auckland's cold kids, and their families" Harfleet said. 

Give a Kid a Blanket is an annual Facebook appeal that collects donations of warm bedding in Auckland and delivers them to children in cold houses. 

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Blankets are distributed to those in need through public health nurses and social workers. 

This year's collection finishes on July 23 and with two weeks still to go, a record number of blankets have been distributed.

Nearly 4000 blankets have been distributed since June 1 with 55 strangers donating their homes or businesses as drop off points.

Melissa Wallace has donated her home to be a drop off point for Saint Heliers, Glendowie, Kohi and Mission Bay. 

Wallace said being a part of the initiative opened her eyes to the amount of people suffering in Auckland. 

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"I always knew there was poverty in Auckland, but I had no idea of the extent - it is truly heartbreaking," she said. 

"I have encountered children sleeping in a parked car, with several other children, no parents and no bedding."

"Lots of people out there want to help those in need, they just didn't have an outlet to do so, and now they do," Wallace said.

With nearly 5000 social media followers Harfleet said the success of the initiative was in its social media presence.

Harfleet and Sarten update the Facebook page several times each day.

"We document the journey of each blanket from the hands of the donor to the hands of the health nurse or social worker. 

"People love that they can actually see the change their donation is making," Harfleet said. 

Also, instead of documenting those receiving the blankets, they focused on the donors, he said. 

"We highlight those ordinary citizens who carry out small acts of kindness and once multiplied together make a big impact - this empowers people."

Give a Kid a Blanket accepts blankets, duvets, quilts and sleeping bags, both new and used of all sizes.

 - Stuff.co.nz

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