Peyton Meyers doesn’t think anyone should be out in the cold without a way to stay warm this winter, and he’s doing something about it.
The Amana 10-year-old, a fifth-grader at Prairie Creek Intermediate School, and his sister Harper, 8, are collecting and making fleece tie blankets to donate to Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids. So far, they’ve collected around 200 blankets, and they’re not stopping yet.
Peyton came up with the idea after seeing a woman asking for food or money one afternoon while the family was driving home from a tae kwon do practice. He asked his mother to pull over their car and gave her his box of Goldfish crackers. The experience stuck with him, and he said he wondered what he else he could do to help.
“When we looked back, we saw her eating them right away. I want to help because we have all this,” he said, gesturing to the family’s house in rural Amana.
Months later, he still was thinking about that moment and told his mother, Jamie Meyers, he thought they should make blankets to help homeless people.
“I just thought of how cold people would be. Blankets were the first thing that popped up in my head,” he said.
Jamie said she was immediately on board.
“I’ve always told them, if they have an idea for something, they have to have a plan, and we’ll help them put it into place,” Jamie said. “He set the goal, we made a flyer and posted it on Facebook. Immediately, I had people liking and commenting, asking where they can drop them off.”
They are calling the effort “Help Heat the Homeless,” with drop boxes for blanket donations at the Fairfax and Ely public libraries as well as at Willis Dady, 1247 Fourth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids.
Evelyn Rossow, marketing and development specialist at Willis Dady, said the need for blankets is huge. In addition to the nonprofit’s primary homeless shelter, they operate a seasonal overflow shelter each winter.
“It’s cold early this year; it’s promising to be a cold winter. Our overflow shelter doesn’t look like it’s going to be open until end of the month,” Rossow said. “Blankets are always a need. If people come in and say, ‘I’m cold, and I need a blanket, we give them a blanket, no exceptions.’”
She said last winter, Willis Dady provided about 6,500 individual nights of shelter, with four or five blankets for each cot. Many are left at the shelter and washed; others go out with the clients when they leave in the morning.
The shelter recommends that donated blankets be long enough to fit over the end of a park bench, or about 54 by 78 inches. The shelter also accepts gently used blankets with no stains or holes.
Peyton and Harper’s father, Brad Meyers, works at Van Meter, where employees have joined the efforts with a blanket-making drive of their own. Another batch of blankets came from the youth ministry at the United Methodist in Shueyville after someone with the church saw a Facebook post about the blanket drive. Others have donated money to purchase materials to make blankets via Jamie’s Venmo account, @JamieMeyers311. She said the family will donate any leftover money to Willis Dady for the overflow shelter. Joann Fabrics is offering a 15 percent discount on fleece for people making donations for the drive.
The family set a goal of 250 blankets, and Peyton picked 480 as a stretch goal. As of Thursday, around 200 blankets either had been made or donated, Jamie said. They plan to continue through Nov. 18, and will host a blanket-making party from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 16 at the Fairfax Public Library. They will bring some fleece along, or people can bring their own fleece to use.
“It makes me feel really good,” Peyton said. “Once you help someone, it makes you feel good.”
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This is the second time the Meyers kids have taken on a big idea to help others. They have family in Houston, and when that city was struggling after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Harper suggested sending a truck of supplies down to help. Within a few days, they had a donated semi-truck and people bringing water, food, toiletries, diapers, pet food and more. They partnered with a church in Houston to distribute the goods, and Jamie’s employer, Strategic Financial Solutions, flew her down to help.
“If they have an idea, I’m not going to not follow that through,” Jamie said of her children.
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