One blanket at a time: Woman calls on community to help those experiencing homelessness

Wednesday was moving day at “Sharing & Caring Hands”’ in Minneapolis.

“It’s just so beautiful to see people with a great heart,” smiled Nalee Lor. “Just willing to make a difference.”

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No, the nonprofit — which provides food, shelter and clothing to those in need — isn’t going anywhere.

Instead, Gemma Barry arrived in the afternoon with a special donation: Nearly 300 blankets for those experiencing homelessness.

“Just breaks my heart. I can’t believe this is happening nowadays,” she said quietly. “I wish I had more ability to do more things, and have the ability to come down here more often to volunteer, you know?”

Barry, 76, is retired after running a childcare business for 30 years in her Willernie home.

She says she recently heard an appeal from Sharing & Caring for donations.

So Barry began calling names in her church directory, about 100 people, asking for blankets.

Within weeks, her living room was filling up.  

“People started coming in droves,” Barry recalls. “A few of them maybe brought stuff that were family heirlooms that their grandmothers made that were crocheted, blankets, but they had them in boxes in their closets and never used them.”

There were so many blankets that she asked Josh Snyder, who runs a Maplewood landscaping business, for help.  

“When Gemma called me and needed a trailer, I got it out and got it ready to go,” he says. “When I heard she was doing it for three weeks, I was surprised at the amount that she got.”

Snyder says he was moved to help for another reason.

He says when he was younger, his family was in need.

“We actually faced homelessness at one point,” Snyder recalls. “I realized I am where I’m at now because of all the help we received, and so any opportunity that I get to do something like this and help those less fortunate… I just really like doing it.”

He’s not alone.

Lor recalls how her family of 10 once lived in a two-bedroom apartment — and how Sharing & Caring provided them with clothes, blankets and pillows.

She’s now a family advocate for the nonprofit’s “Mary’s Place,” transitional apartments for families with children that are experiencing homelessness.

Lor says Barry’s outreach is a huge help.  

“It just brought a lot of memories to see that so many people care in our community,” she said. “Just one person at a time, one drop at a time will fill up a bucket, and we’ll surely be able to provide enough, just with people like her, with a good heart and good intentions.”

Barry says the heroes in this story are the staff at Sharing & Caring Hands — and the people who stepped up to donate.

She says she might do this again, hoping to make people’s lives a little bit warmer, one blanket at a time.

“All the neighbors and everything. Dear, dear good neighbors and friends, just wonderful people,” Barry says. “If I can sit at home, and get on the phone, I will do that to help as much as I can.”

Visit Sharing & Caring Hands for more information.