Support spikes for seniors’ blanket drive after viral tweet

By Stephen Wentzell

For many, a new blanket becomes the most-used gift throughout the often unforgiving Nova Scotia winters. 

Now, a holiday fundraiser is hoping to provide blankets to seniors in Halifax. 

Nicole Martelle has organized the Northwood Blanket Drive since 2017. During the month of November, Martelle collects new store-bought or handmade blankets for seniors as a present on Christmas day.

Providing the blankets to Northwood is no easy feat. The not-for-profit continuing care facility, which opened in 1962, has hundreds of residents. 

Martelle, once a volunteer at the facility before becoming a client support worker, sent out a plea for blankets on Twitter on Nov. 7 after only receiving two donations.

Since Martelle’s tweet, the response has been “astronomical,” with 60 to 70 additional blankets donated in the last ten days. 

One of the donations consisted of nine bags of blankets. Martelle is also expecting several blankets shipped to Nova Scotia from donors out of province. 

The number of blankets can quickly become overwhelming to store in Martelle’s one-bedroom apartment. She’s grateful to a classmate for helping provide storage space in the meantime. 

When Martelle began the blanket drive, she said she “didn’t think a whole lot of it.” 

“A lot [of residents] don't have family or friends … and when you go into [nursing homes], things become shared, Martelle explained. “You don't really have a lot of items that are just yours and yours only.” 

As the years of fundraising go by, Martelle said she’s received a significant response from at least six residents at Northwood who look forward to their Christmas gift each holiday season.

“A blanket looks like a blanket but it means so much to them because it means that somebody in the community cared enough about them to donate it,” Martelle said.

While the blanket drive initially supported seniors in general, Martelle found an opportunity to partner with a long-term care facility in Halifax to distribute the blankets as Christmas presents.

In 2019, Martelle told CityNews Halifax her original goal in 2018 was to collect 33 blankets. She ended up receiving more than 65. 

For Martelle, blankets are also a practical gift. 

“Their name gets sewn on it so it doesn't get lost. It's a permanent thing,” she said. 

The blanket drive runs until Dec. 5. Donations can be dropped off to the Northwood facility in Halifax or Allen Print in Dartmouth. 

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