Twelve-year-old San Luis Obispo resident Madison Neville has been collecting blankets around the holiday season to give to the homeless shelter since the third grade. That’s when she first saw down-and-out people sleeping out in the cold in parks and felt compelled to do something for them.
Each winter for the past five years, Neville has organized a blanket drive for the needy through her school.
But this year, after seeing the devastation on television of the Thomas Fire that has ripped through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, Neville and her three younger sisters decided to help the fire evacuees.
“We know that a lot of the people down there have had to evacuate, and some of their homes have burned down and they’ve lost of a lot of their special things,” Neville said. “We decided we should help them.”
Between Madison’s efforts at Laguna Middle School and the drive coordinated by her 9-year-old sisters Alyssa and Reagan and her 7-year-old sister Cambria at Bishop’s Peak Elementary, the siblings have collected about 80 blankets.
“We saw all the people in the shelters from the fire on TV,” said Reagan Neville. “And it’s really, really sad.”
The young girls have announced their cause on the morning loudspeakers at their schools and on the KJUG country radio station (98.1 FM). Their school newsletters also will spread the word along with a flier made by their mother, Rachel Neville, calling for new or gently used blankets.
Large school bins are being put out on the Laguna and Bishop Peak’s campuses during operational hours through January from about 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Parents, teachers and the community are encouraged to drop off donations.
The blankets they’ve collected already have come in various shapes, sizes and colors. Some are for babies and some can be used for animals.
Rachel Neville, the girls’ mother, said the family expects to deliver the blankets in early January to the shelters in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
“This idea all started with Madison five years ago,” Rachel Neville said. “She felt really, really bad about the homeless people getting pounded by rain and wanted to help.”
In addition to the Neville sisters’ efforts, Laguna Middle School history teacher Mila Vujovich-La Barre also is collecting donations of personal items like blankets, jackets, toiletries and sleeping bags for the homeless and the fire victims.
Donations may be dropped off at her classroom, Room G-14.