Giving back to the community is something that the students and staff at Woodland Hills are very passionate about. When teacher Lori Cruz found the Blankets of Hope project she knew it would be the perfect thing for her and the 5th grade students to get involved in.
Blankets of Hope is an educational nonprofit organization based out of New York. What began as a kind gesture, by Mike and Nick Fiorito, sharing blankets and encouraging notes with homeless people on the streets of New York, has grown into a national / international movement of kindness & love.
“Once I decided that this would be an amazing community service project, I went to the Blankets of Hope website to learn more,” Cruz said. “It was there that I saw all the states and countries that had participated with the Blankets of Hope program. Sadly, Oklahoma was not shaded in on the US map, but it would be very soon!”
It was at that moment, that the 5th grade teachers and students at Woodland Hills Elementary vowed to get Oklahoma on that map of kindness! To participate in the program, you had to sign up on a waiting list to receive blankets for each student. The students would then participate in a virtual kindness workshop. Next, students would write handwritten letters of empathy and kindness to attach to each blanket. Finally, after all blankets were collected and letters were written, teachers would reach out to local homeless shelters to receive these special blankets and distribute them to those in the most need.
“The only change that I requested was that we would get blankets donated to our project instead of Blankets of Hope sending us the blankets,” Cruz said. “I wanted to see if we could talk up our project and exceed maybe a goal of 100 blankets.”
Fast forward a month…300 blankets later and 72 stuffed animals later (to give to children of homeless families) and the Blankets of Hope service project has turned out to be a complete success! The smiles on the students’ faces and the pride that they had writing each and every letter, made it all worth it.
On March 3rd 2023 at 2:00 PM, representatives from LPS, C. Carter Crane, Family Promise, New Directions, and Salvation Army came to Woodland Hills to humbly receive our 5th grade Blankets of Hope. They were amazed at the sheer number of blankets collected, but they were even more overwhelmed by the personal touches that the students added to each blanket and stuffed animal!
“These projects have meant so much to me, to help the kids give from the heart and realize just how much a little kindness can make such a big difference to others in our community,” Cruz said. “My hope is that the students will continue to pay it forward long after they leave my classroom.”