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Blanket bank keeping needy families warmer

Eileen Hoyle, left, Kaleb Pike, and Alison Morgan of Wairarapa Warm Bedding. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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A Wairarapa woman is stepping up to help hundreds of people unable to afford warm bedding this winter.

Masterton resident Alison Morgan set up a blanket bank last year after realising that many needy families were struggling with the cold.

“I had a blanket that needed a new home, and I wanted to find someone who genuinely needed it,” she said.

After advertising it on social media, she had about five or six families contact her.

“I gave it to a gentleman who was living in his daughter’s shed because he couldn’t find accommodation.

“I had so many people contacting me asking ‘have you got anything else’.

“That was when I realised there was absolutely nothing in Wairarapa to help them. That was when I decided to start the blanket bank.”

She set up a Facebook page for Wairarapa Warm Bedding and started distributing blankets more widely.

Last winter, Morgan helped about 18 families, but this year demand had rocketed.

She said many people did not ask for help. Some worried their children would be taken from them if they reached out.

“I’ve had between 30 and 40 requests since the colder weather got here a month ago.

“It is so hard now to get accommodation. That accommodation takes up to 90 per cent of the average beneficiaries’ income. It leaves them almost nothing to buy food. Once they have their food and bills paid, how can they afford bedding?”

She said much cheap bedding was not warm enough.

“A lot of people will wrap the blanket around themselves and roll up like a cocoon on their bed and that helps them stay that little bit warmer. Or they will have three or four kids in the same bed together to keep each other warm,” she said.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said Morgan should be commended for her generosity and initiative.

McAnulty said there were knitted blankets and baby clothes available in his constituency office in Queen St.

“As it’s become colder, a lot of people have asked for them.”

He said his office also worked with constituents to make sure they were getting their full benefit entitlements.

“The winter energy payment has made a significant impact on people’s ability to heat their households.”

McAnulty encouraged people who were struggling to identify what assistance was available to visit his office.

Morgan works with Whaiora, the New Zealand Police, and other agencies to help families in need.

Morgan works with businesses across the region who act as drop off points, including Vehicle Testing New Zealand [VTNZ] and Master Bowl in Masterton.

VTNZ employee Eileen Hoyle helps Morgan.

“I used to collect clothing and blankets for a number of years for foster kids in Auckland. It was easy to transfer that to helping collect for locals,” she said.

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