During a particularly cold weather snap in November 2010, Eileen Cowen was moved to action by the plight of the homeless people she could not help but see every day in and around Vancouver. Eileen, her husband Eric, and their three small daughters, live and work near the downtown area, where the number of homeless was growing.
“I knew we couldn’t solve all the problems,” she said, “but I just thought – what can I do to help them today?”
The Blanket Brigade was born.
Eileen and a handful of others posted signs at a few downtown locations asking for clothing and blankets to be dropped off over a period of one month. She made regular pick-up circuits, then delivered the warm winter gear to local shelters, including Share.
“We also just loaded up our van and drove around looking for people living out in the cold,” Eileen remembered. “They were not hard to find, and so appreciative.”
Since then, Eileen and her brigade of helpers, including scouts and schools, have run two drives per winter. The donations have grown each time, reaching 10 van loads. The Blanket Brigade has given more than 150 blankets in the last three years directly into the hands of someone in need at that moment.
Cowen is also a college student, mother of three, environmentalist and the manager of Urban Growers Market in Vancouver’s Uptown Village. Her energy to give seems limitless. But it’s easier when the causes are close to home.
“Any person can be just one sick child away from bankruptcy and homelessness. And so many are veterans,” she added. “That hits home, as my husband and I are both veterans.”