Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Temple News: Warm Hearts offers help, warmth for the homeless

Warm Hearts offers help, warmth for the homeless

October 31, 2011 by Dominique Johnson
Filed under Opinion

Fareeda Mabry, founder of Operation Warm Hearts, recognizes the need to keep Philadelphia’s homeless warm this winter through organizing blanket drives.

Last year, Philadelphia native Fareeda Mabry, 33, started a grass-roots organization known as Operation Warm Hearts with a simple goal in mind: Help those who cannot help themselves. The organization is seeking to collect and distribute 1,701 blankets across the Philadelphia region for those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves trapped in the cold this coming winter.

The organization was formed by Mabry with the help of Justina Shaw from the nonprofit organization, OPPORTUNITIES, and friends Carl Daniels, Nakisha Peterson and Tarisse Iriarte.

“They helped pushed this initiative on the ground by taking donations and playing a major role in the street team,” Mabry said. “We meet people where they are. If they are living on the streets, we go to them.”

Currently Operation Warm Hearts is looking to maintain the relationship that they have with Shaw, by working with OPPORTUNITIES. They also plan to build partnerships with other organizations.

Mabry is a product of Philadelphia’s Olney High School, graduating in 1997. Attending Peirce College and the University of Pennsylvania later, Mabry considers herself a “maverick,” and a community leader who is “from the people and for the people.”

“The same people we elect, some turn to elitism and it is hard for people to relate to them,” Mabry said. “I want people to still relate to me as a sister, a cousin, a daughter, a niece and a friend.”

As housing and social service cuts decrease and the economy continues to pull itself out of a recession, it is estimated that across the country there are approximately 200,000 to 500,000 Americans who are currently homeless. It is estimated that there are approximately 4,000 homeless people in Philadelphia on any given day. This includes those who are in shelters or on the streets.

As a result of the economic downturn, Mabry and her team wanted to address this particular need. Starting out at first by accepting only blankets and comforters, Operation Warm Hearts now accepts items such as soap, toothpaste and shirts.

“We are looking to do a blanket drive every year from [Oct. 1] until March 1,” Mabry said. “As we collect, we give to folks who are in need and also receive requests from low-income families to provide support.”

Last year Operation Warm Hearts serviced more than 800 homeless families and individuals. Mabry hopes to partner with more organizations and political leaders as the organization moves forward, so that they may continue to have blanket drives.

Although its initial goal is 1,701 blankets, Mabry said that she is looking to collect double that number since Operation Warm Hearts is also supporting the Occupy Philly protestors camping outside City Hall.

“Philadelphia grew from a few hundred inhabitants in 1683 to over 2,500 in 1701,” Mabry said, on why the organization chose that number for its goal. “Before William Penn left Philadelphia for the last time on Oct. 25, 1701 he issued the Charter of 1701.”

William Penn envisioned Philadelphia as a ‘City of Brotherly Love,’” Mabry added. “He was realistic enough to know that law, not love, is the mechanism that regulates the interactions of men.”

Currently, Operation Warm Hearts is not holding any blanket drives. Mabry said that she is looking to students, volunteers and others who may be interested in doing them while also increasing Operation Warm Hearts capacity to service more individuals.

“Operation Warm Hearts knows that it is the simple things that can help keep a person going when they are losing everything,” Mabry said.

Anyone interested in volunteering time or donating to Operation Warm Hearts can contact Mabry at 267-707-8979 or email fareeda@fareedamabry.org with the subject line: Operation Warm Hearts.

Dominique Johnson can be reached at dominique.johnson@temple.edu.

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