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El Paso’s Extreme Weather Task Force kicks off annual blanket drive for seniors, needy families

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- As temperatures drop, so does the peril for the elderly and needy families in our community. That's why the Extreme Weather Task Force holds an annual blanket drive and winter safety campaign. The effort kicked off last week.

“Our goal is not simply to collect and distribute free blankets, we want to check on people and educate the community on how to stay safe in cold weather,” said Grace Ortiz, Extreme Weather Task Force Chair and Community Engagement Specialist with Adult Protective Services (APS.)

“Some of the poorest families we’ve seen, especially in the Colonias, don’t have any heat source in their homes,” said Ortiz. “It’s the elderly and the children who suffer the most.”

During the past two years, the Extreme Weather Task Force has collected and delivered 1,176 free blankets to the elderly and needy families in our community.

“Currently, we have only 200 blankets in stock,” said Ortiz. “"Our inventory is low. To fulfill the blanket requests, we are asking the community to donate new blankets. We still need help from our great community. And we thank El Paso Electric for generously donating $5000 in new blankets to help. We've also welcomed in United Way as a campaign partner."

To help save lives, the Extreme Weather Task Force stresses use of the “Buddy System.” This simply involves having a trusted relative, friend or neighbor check in daily with an elderly or disabled person during a cold wave. A Buddy encourages an at-risk individual to stay warm by wearing layers of clothes, to eat well, drink plenty of fluids and heat their home safely. If there are errands to be done, the Buddy does them, or makes sure they get done.

Those most at-risk for hypothermia include: elderly people with inadequate food, clothing or heating; babies sleeping in cold bedrooms; children left unattended; adults under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs; mentally ill individuals; people who remain outdoors for long periods, including the homeless, hikers, and hunters.

New blanket donations can be dropped off any time at local fire stations or El Paso County Sheriff sub-stations. Corporate and monetary donations are welcome payable to the APS Silver Star Board. The mailing address is: Attention - Grace Ortiz, Adult Protective Services, 401 E. Franklin, Suite 350, El Paso, TX, 79901.

Those in need of a blanket (who meet EWTF criteria) should call 211.

For more information contact: Grace Ortiz at 915-834-5772.

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is the anchor and producer for ABC-7 at 4.

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