When a Blanket Counts

Carol Fouke-Mpoyo | January 9, 2014

Rev. John L. McCullough displays a CWS Blanket at the New Jersey Food Bank. Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

Rev. John L. McCullough displays a CWS Blanket at the New Jersey Food Bank. Photo: Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

I just got a little taste of what it’s like to be affected by a disaster and suddenly in need of a CWS Blanket.

It was just for one night. But it was enough to remind me that disaster and need can hit anyone. And it was enough to make me proud of CWS and all who support our Blanket program. When someone is cold and wondering when, if ever, they will feel warm again, a CWS Blanket means the world.

My own need resulted from that enormous mass of frigid air that parked itself on top of much of the United States during this past week. On Monday, I was one of the tens of thousands of would-be air travelers whose flights were delayed or cancelled due to the extreme cold.

I had spent the New Year’s holiday with family and friends near Rockford, Ill., which is about 75 miles west of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Monday, Jan. 6, was my scheduled return to New York City, where I live and work. Before leaving for the airport, I confirmed that my 6 p.m. flight was still “on.”

I took the airport bus from Rockford and got to the airport plenty early, around 2 p.m. I checked myself and a bag in, cleared security and headed for a café near the gate.

Subsequently, my 6 p.m. departure was delayed to 8 p.m., then midnight. Around 9 p.m., the flight was cancelled altogether. So I joined the queue at the main ticket counter to rebook, and went downstairs to wait for the return of my checked bag. It appeared around midnight, long after the last bus left for Rockford.

OK, now where to spend the night? I could have stuck it out in the airport, but was able to get a reasonably priced room at a nearby hotel. I finally got into the room around 2:30 a.m., turned on the heat and crawled into bed. Ah, what a relief to lie down after a long and tiring day.

Except the heat didn’t work well at all. Soon I actually started to shake violently from the cold. I got up, got dressed and went to the front desk with my plea for help. I was transferred to a room that was only a little bit warmer – and was given three extra thick wool blankets.

They weren’t CWS Blankets, but they reminded me of CWS Blankets. I laid them on the bed and crawled in under them, wrapped myself in them as snugly as I could and finally started to get warm. I got two or three hours of sleep before I got up, packed up, grabbed a hot coffee in the hotel lobby, returned to the airport and caught a bus back to Rockford. My little ordeal was over.

Again, my discomfort was just enough to boost my empathy for people whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by a hurricane, flood, tornado or other disaster and who find themselves very tired and very cold.

Most likely they will need a CWS Blanket for more than just one night. They may also need a CWS Hygiene Kit (I could have used one! I was without toothpaste for about 24 hours, until I got back to Rockford, though I did have breath mints … ).

Your contributions of CWS Kits, Cleanup Buckets and Blankets really can help make a trying situation more bearable. Help keep CWS stocked up to respond quickly to ongoing and future needs for these essential items.

Carol Fouke-Mpoyo is a communication specialist for the CWS U.S. Disaster Response Program, which offers CWS Blankets and Kits in disaster’s aftermath, then helps train local teams to see survivors through to long-term recovery.