Operation Blanket keeps homeless warm in winter

ISU Student Veterans of America ISUSVA put on the Operation Blanket donation Nov. 4 to Nov. 24. Drop points for blankets and winter clothing are located at 1320 Gerdin, Armory Entrance and 3578 Memorial Avenue, shown above.

Michaela Ramm

Imagine being homeless in the middle of winter, with no basic necessities such as a coat or gloves to help keep you warm.

Operation Blanket was created to help solve that issue. The project is working to provide donated winter apparel and blankets to the homeless community in Ames.

Thanh Truong, a senior in supply chain management, and Matthew Barr, sophomore in management information systems, are students who saw a need to help the homeless in the area.

Operation Blanket runs Nov. 4-24 to help the homeless keep warm as the days get colder. The goal is to collect donations of gently used winter apparel and blankets.

Truong said he believes even giving just a little will help improve someone’s life.

“I feel those little things can effect someone’s experience and the way they view the world,” Truong said. “When you’re cold and chilled, you’re miserable. But when you put on a warm coat or you have an extra blanket, it changes your whole perspective of the world and people.”

Students can drop off their donations at any of the three on-campus locations: the Armory entrance, 1320 Gerdin and 3578 Memorial Union. There is also an off-campus drop-off point at the Story County Veteran’s Affairs office.

Breanne Kula, senior in animal science and president of We Cypport Our Troops, said the placement of the donation boxes was strategic.

We Cypport Our Troops is a student organization at Iowa State that offers support for individuals whose loved ones are serving in the military. The organization helped raise funds for Operation Blanket through events such as Lunch on Central Campus.

The project is also supported by the Iowa State University Student Veterans of America. The donations are meant for every homeless individual in Ames.

“It’s not necessarily strictly focused on veterans, but it is sometimes a community that is close with it,” Kula said. “To see the veteran community come together to support everyone really, really ties in the whole view of it. This is what they’re fighting for and why they joined.”

Truong said once they’ve collected all the items, they will organize a plan to distribute them.

“During Thanksgiving break, I’m going to start my planning process for our distribution,” Truong said. “During Dead Week we plan to distribute those items.”

Barr said they will reach out to the Story County Veteran’s Affairs office and the Ames Police Department to help distribute the donations.

“It isn’t really about the difficulty of finding them; it’s about showing them there’s somebody out there who’s willing to care for them,” Barr said.

Kula said veterans can find themselves without a home because of the difficulty of transitioning to civilian life.

“It can set someone back to the point that they don’t know how or where to get help with anything,” Kula said. “They might end up falling behind and ending up homeless themselves. It’s unfortunate, but you do see it a lot.”

Kula said veterans and students can understand their situation and are willing to offer help to those in need.

Truong and Barr’s Operation Blanket stems from their own experiences, as well as their desire to give back.

“I was born in Vietnam and moved here in 1992,” Truong said. “Along the way, my family and I weren’t very privileged. So I understand what the individuals who are in need come from because throughout my years, we’ve had donations. We’ve been in those situations where we needed a little more food or some clothing.”

Because of this, Truong said he was inspired to help those in need.

“I really want to be able to give back to the community because there’s this gratitude that I felt for what people have done for my family, and I want to be able to give and affect someone else’s life,” Truong said.

Barr was inspired to help those in need as well since he was homeless himself for a short time.

“When [Truong] brought this up, it hit home because before the military, I was homeless for a bit,” Barr said. “Getting out of the military, my wife and I were homeless for a short stretch as well. Just having that extra bit, having someone say ‘hey, I’m willing to help you’ whether you want them to or not, it actually makes a big difference.”

To donate to Operation Blanket, bring gently used blankets and winter apparel to the various drop points.

Contact Thanh Truong or Matthew Barr to become involved with Operation Blanket.