Even though there are still several months of cold weather facing Haywood, thanks for church members on both ends of the county, winter warmth is available.

Canton First Baptist Church saw a tremendous need for warm winter clothing and blankets during its holiday food and coat distributions and decided to extend the effort into January.

Jean Parris, who coordinates the winter warmth distribution effort at the Canton church, said the doors of the fellowship hall will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Thursday in January for those who need warm clothing or blankets.

“God sent us all the blankets we need,” she said. “At the beginning of the giveaway, on the first Thursday, (Jan. 7), a carnival of trucks hauling boxes of blankets pulled up at our door and unloaded. There are four wrapped blankets in each unopened box, and there were 164 blankets in all. We called it a God thing and they were brought to us by Godly people.”

The donation came from Encouraging Word Church, just out of Waynesville.

Parris said the Rev. Michael Horton had read an article in The Mountaineer about the Keeping Haywood Warm campaign and set actions in motion to deliver blankets.

Sam Freeman, who works with a mission program through the Appalachian Ministries program, said Encouraging Word has been working with an outreach program in coal country to supply blankets — and some socks — to address the extreme poverty needs in that region. Other churches provide items such as clothing, coats and food, but the Waynesville effort is focused on blankets.

“This past year, we served 300 people and brought all kinds blankets — twin, queen and even throws for the kids,” Freeman said. “It was freezing in the parking lot and kids would come through there with nothing but a short-sleeve shirt.”

Encouraging Word was planning on an even larger distribution, but some of the families who signed up weren’t there for the pickup day, so there were blankets left over.

“Hugh Contance has been in contact with Canton First Baptist, and we were glad to take them up there,” Freeman said, noting the blankets were delivered the Wednesday before the first winter warmth giveaway in January.

Freeman has an arrangement with a Forest City blanket distributor who offers a small discount, bringing the cost of each twin blanket to about $7. Larger blankets cost more, but there were baby blankets available during his last visit. Freeman was able to pick them up for 50 cents each.

Church members covered the cost of not only the blanket and socks sent to Wise, Virginia, but to provide school supplies to the Christian school in the area, as well as funds to supply food boxes.

“For a small church, it is pretty amazing the way people give and care,” Freeman said, noting there are about 100 church members.

Parris was tickled pink with the donation and already has given away 60 blankets. The number would have been higher were it not for the winter snow and ice that hit Haywood on Friday.

“On the next day, I felt like I needed to get these blankets moving to keep those possibly not able to be warm, so I contacted a few persons who had given coats to come by,” Parris said. “A special couple who helped the homeless at Cruso met me there and took away 20 blankets plus coats, along with necessities for men and women. They also took Bear Closet bags for three children under age 5. Another couple took 12 blankets for three kin families and the Canton Police Department took 12 blankets to give to some needy families in Canton.”

There are still blankets left, Parris said, encouraging people who need them to drop by Thursday.

“We are so grateful to Encouraging Word, their pastor and helpers,” she said. They made all this possible. God bless you all.”

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