Mike and Nick Fiorito on a mission to inspire a global movement of kindness, one blanket at a time. Photo Courtesy of Nick Fiorito/www.blanketsofhope.com/
Over 500,000 people experience homelessness in the United States each year. The highest numbers tend to be along the East and West Coast, although numbers are rising in Alaska and Hawaii.
Although those numbers are high, they are lower than the figures from 2007. The most at risk of experiencing homelessness are racial minorities, people in the LGBTQIA+ community, and individuals facing mental health issues.
Blankets of Hope isn’t trying to solve homelessness. They’re trying to make things easier by offering blankets with a personal letter to those living on the street.
Two Brothers Left the Corporate World to Start This Project
Mike and Nick Fiorito were chasing the typical American dream. Both had corporate careers that helped them have a comfortable life, but it didn’t feel like the work they were doing was meaningful. []
That’s when they both stepped away from their jobs to do something that meant more.
“We knew that there was more to life than what we were doing,” Nick said. “We naïvely took this leap of faith into the world of entrepreneurship where we wanted to create something for ourselves that was going to make the world a better place in some way.”
For the first six months of this effort to find something meaningful, but nothing seemed to stick. The brothers kept bouncing from one venture to the next, looking for some way to be successful while helping others.
One night, Nick had a vision while trying to fall asleep. He pictured a homeless man that he kept seeing each day while commuting to work in New York City. “I would always tell myself that I’d do something to help him, but I never did anything about it,” he said. “For some reason, on that night, a voice whispered to me and said that if I wasn’t going to do something now, when would I be doing it?”
That night, Nick created a GoFundMe to raise money to buy blankets for the homeless. Mike had the idea of adding a handwritten letter to each one. Those were the first moments of Blankets of Hope.
With the help of family and friends, they delivered 100 blankets to people in need.
More Videos and Fundraisers Helped Blankets of Hope Grow
Todd Chaffee, a Forbes-ranked venture capitalist, came across one of Mike’s videos for Blankets of Hope and wanted to get involved. By adding his financial support and mentorship to the brothers’ entrepreneurial spirit, the organization had a recipe to follow that could help many more people. []
The group started another GoFundMe to raise enough money to deliver 1,000 blankets the following year. When Nick’s fifth-grade teacher offered to help with 200 students, the goal seemed immediately achievable.
Since that offer, Blankets of Hope have partnered with schools to create their blanket and letter deliveries to homeless communities. The process begins when the organization sends warm blankets to schools. Students participate in a workshop that focuses on compassion and kindness before writing a handwritten note to a stranger.
Each letter is filled with words of hope and encouragement. With the rolled-up blankets, they’re delivered to local shelters.
“We shelter kids from scary things in the world,” said Chris Herman, Head of School at Garden City School NYC. “The fragility of housing and food is especially scary. I think it’s helpful to [students] at this age before they go off to college or to the world to understand that we’re all close to displacement. Circumstances can change very quickly.” []
Since its founding, Blankets of Hope has collaborated with over 50,000 students across North America to donate just as many blankets to people in need.
Each year, the brothers launch a GoFundMe campaign to create even more giving opportunities.
Additional Items to Consider Giving to the Homeless
You don’t need to work with Blankets of Hope to make a positive difference in your community. Homelessness is more than not having a home. It also means living a life without basic human comforts. Anything that offers cleanliness, warmth, or safety is often needed locally. []
Socks are especially important. When people live on the street, they rarely remove their shoes. Laundry facilities aren’t always close or affordable. Personal hygiene items like soap or shampoo, food, pet supplies, and rain gear are also in high demand.
For more information about getting involved with Blankets of Hope, visit their website at https://www.blanketsofhope.com. And, for more inspiration, be sure to watch their newest TedX talk: How to win the game of life | Nick and Mike Fio | TEDxBigSky
[] https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-2021/; [ https://www.blanketsofhope.com/our-story; [] https://www.forbes.com/profile/todd-chaffee/; [] https://www.gofundme.com/c/heroes/blankets-of-hope; [] https://www.therighttoshower.com/make-difference/what-do-people-experiencing-homelessness-need-most-besides-shelter