When Gregory Ould offered a blanket to a homeless man back in 1995, he didn’t realize he was about to change his life’s focus.
Ould is the co-founder, along with his son Ben, of Blanket BC Society, an organization based in Mission that collects and distributes blankets to those in need.
Ould recalled that in October of 2005, he came out of a movie theatre in Vancouver and noticed a man sitting in an alcove.
He approached the stranger and asked if there was anything he could do to help him.
“He said, ‘I could use a blanket to survive the night.’ ”
It was the “survive the night” comment that “floored” Ould.
“I never thought about it like that before,” he said.
Ould went to a local store and purchased the warmest blanket he could find.
“It made me feel good,” he explained.
When Ould got home, his 22-month-old son Ben was still awake.
While he knows he was really just talking out loud to himself, Ould reiterated the story to Ben.
“But he acknowledged me,” said Ould, who then realized he and his son could do something more to help.
He began to collect blankets to give away to shelters. In the first year he managed to acquire a modest amount, 67 blankets in all. But word spread and support grew.
By the third year, in a three-month period, they collected 15,000 blankets.
Now the society has blossomed into a year-round initiative composed of between 100 and 200 volunteers (blanketeers, he calls them) working throughout the year.
When he was five, Ould’s son Ben began to lend a hand.
“That’s when I really started to help,” he said. “I’d go out and help deliver blankets.”
The father/son team helped take the society to the next level.
To date, the Blanket BC Society has collected more than 200,000 blankets, which they donate to more than 75 shelters across the province.
“A lot of people in Mission don’t realize that we are headquartered here,” said Ould.
Now he needs to find a storage space in Mission or Abbotsford to house the blankets before they get distributed.
Recently, Ben and Gregory were honoured by the BC Country Music Association. On Oct. 25, the father/son duo received the group’s Humanitarian of the Year award for their work with Blanket BC.
While both Gregory and Ben enjoyed the recognition, they say awards are not why they volunteer their time.
“I just want to help them survive the night because that one day could change their lives,” said Gregory.
For more on the Blanket BC Society, visit the website at blanketbc.org.