ELIZABETHTOWN — It couldn’t have been a better October for the fifth annual Roger’s Wish project.
With a hurricane to contend with, Bladen County turned out in force during the 31-day collection effort to gather blankets and a variety of items for the area’s homeless and families in need.
Led by the East Bladen High ROTC, which contributed more than 50 blankets to the project, the 2017 Roger’s Wish effort saw a total of 143 blankets, 11 sleeping bags, three jackets and numerous miscellaneous items brought to the Bladen Journal.
“This really is incredible,” said W. Curt Vincent, general manager and editor of the Bladen Journal. “For five years now, even when Matthew blew through last year, we’ve been witness to some real heart-felt giving by the residents of Bladen County.”
Roger’s Wish is an effort started by the late Roger Grunder, a homeless man himself who had a caring heart for those in need. In the summer of 2013, Grunder came to the Bladen Journal with the idea for a blanket and sleeping bag drive to benefit the area’s homeless and needy. The first effort was kicked off in August of that year, but Grunder never saw the fruits of his idea — he was killed shortly after in a car accident.
“We couldn’t let his idea die with him,” Vincent said, “and we picked it up ourselves. It goes without saying that we’ve been rewarded by the effort, because we’ve not only seen the compassion and generosity of those who have given, but also the thankfulness of those who come and claim their blanket.
“And we know that Roger is watching over this effort,” he added.
The distribution of the items collected during October will be Friday at the Bladen Journal starting at 9 a.m. In addition, a number of blankets have been given to the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office for their deputies to give to any homeless folks they come upon while on patrol.
“It’s been very difficult for us to get the homeless to stop by during our blanket giveaway — and Roger told us that would probably be the case, for a variety of reasons,” Vincent said. “So we figured that, since sheriff’s deputies probably interact with the homeless on occasion, they could help get the blankets to them.”
Part of Grunder’s family is expected to be at the Bladen Journal on Friday to help distribute items.