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Regent Partners with Blankets for the Homeless

By Amanda Morad | October 18, 2013

Blankets for the Homeless founder, Mariah Smith (center), with Campus Ministries outreach coordinator Jordan Crouthamel and Regent Theatre box office manager Laura Thomas.

As the leaves fall and the wind changes throughout the Hampton Roads, Va., region, hundreds of homeless men, women and children prepare to hunker down for temperatures that—while not as cold as the North—still prevent them from staying outdoors through the winter.

Regent University has partnered with a local outreach, Blankets for the Homeless, to collect clothing and covering for some of the community's most vulnerable members. In the month since the campaign kicked off, Regent has collected more than 100 blankets, 50 coats and jackets, and 100 items of clothing.

"We are so very grateful to Regent for all of their support and active help with our ministry," said the organization's founder, 19-year-old Mariah Smith. "Blankets for the Homeless is two years old and to date, we have handed out over 40,000 blankets and lunches."

The organization provides a sack lunch to each person they offer items to and also collects and distributes sleeping bags, coats, hoodies, hats, scarves, gloves, sweatshirts, backpacks, jeans, walking shoes, rain ponchos, and in the summer, bug spray, sunscreen, summer clothes, baby wipes, and other hygiene items.

"The list goes on and on," Smith explained. "Basically anything they need, we try to find a way to get it for them. The need is always there, and the need is always great."

"I knew this would be an important partnership, because Mariah is literally living out our mission here at Regent University of Christian leadership to change the world, so it was clear that we needed to support her," said Laura Thomas, box office manager for Regent Theatre and the campaign's coordinator. She arranged an exchange program that allowed for every donor to the Regent campaign to receive a free ticket to The Comedy of Errors, Regent Theatre's main stage production this semester.

"It was apparent while developing this campaign that the involvement of Campus Ministries and the University Library would make this a great success, and it did," Thomas said of her campaign partners. Students, staff and faculty had the opportunity to donate at sites throughout campus through these partnerships.

"The partnership with School of Communication & the Arts and the Library was outstanding," said Campus Ministries outreach coordinator, Jordan Crouthamel. "At every step we were able to work together to make this drive a success—all of campus really stepped up and boxes were constantly having to be collected and replaced due to the incredible response."

"As soon as you get to know Mariah and hear her story, you can't help but to be drawn to her cause," Thomas said. "Anyone that meets her immediately catches her vision."

Smith started the Blankets for the Homeless project in October 2011 when she encountered local homelessness in a way that compelled her to act. She handed an ill homeless man a blanket from the backseat of her car and bought him a meal.

"I had never seen a homeless person before, so to say that I was horrified is an understatement," Smith recalled. "On the way home all I did was cry."

Blankets for the Homeless was born out of that moment of compassion, and Smith hasn't looked back since.

"I know that a blanket and a lunch does not seem like much, but to someone who is hungry and sleeping on the ground, it is the difference between being hungry and cold, or not," Smith said. "I want them to know that someone truly cares."

Though Regent's campaign has officially ended, collection boxes are still located in the University Library and the lobby of the Communications Building, and donations can be made directly to Blankets for the Homeless.


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