Brjen’s blanketsPerhaps there’s a reason that Brjen Jones has the face of a cherub. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but there’s a chance he’s hiding angel wings and a halo somewhere. The evidence is in his living room— the 127 blankets he’s collected for homeless kids in the Arrowhead. His mom, Janelle, said they were planning to make four stops Monday afternoon to collect more from local donors.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
Perhaps there’s a reason that Brjen Jones has the face of a cherub. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but there’s a chance he’s hiding angel wings and a halo somewhere. The evidence is in his living room— the 127 blankets he’s collected for homeless kids in the Arrowhead. His mom, Janelle, said they were planning to make four stops Monday afternoon to collect more from local donors.
The Two Harbors nine-year old said it all started about three weeks ago. He and his family were in St. Paul for the high school hockey tournaments. Making their way back to the motel on foot one night, Brjen said he took notice of a man near a downtown building.
“We’d race around outside the library and we saw this homeless guy. I went back to the motel and didn’t say anything, but when I got home I asked my mom if we could buy the homeless people beds,” he said, at which point Janelle had to break the news that few family budgets, including theirs, would permit the purchase of beds for all the homeless people they saw. Brjen understood, but still wanted to help.
“It bothered me because it was so cold outside, so I said, ‘can we get blankets?’ And my mom said ‘sure,’” he reported. From there Brjen wrote a letter:
“Hello Human Fellows-
My name is Brjen Jones and I am 9 years old. I would like to do something for the homeless people so I decided to do my own blanket drive. Please help me collect blankets for the homeless so they can stay warm, if you have any to donate please call me at 834-5081.
THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He took his letter to the Wells Fargo Bank branch in Two Harbors and to Bethlehem Lutheran Church. His parents used social media to spread the word and a family friend took a copy of the letter to her place of work in Duluth. Soon blankets and financial donations began to arrive from as far away as Texas, North Dakota and Minneapolis.
“We’re getting complete strangers calling us now, and many from the community, which is great,” said Janelle.
When the blankets are collected, the donor receives a card that says: “Thank you for your donation. Because of you someone will be warm tonight.” On the back of the wallet-size card is a small photo of Brjen and a startling statistic – there are 5-600 homeless kids in Minnesota every night. The Jones’ have since learned that this number is incorrect.
“We watched some videos that said there are 2,500 homeless kids each night in Minnesota.
“That’s just wrong,” said Brjen. His mom said the realization has prompted Brjen to say a prayer for homeless people each night and to announce that he wants at least half of the blankets to go to homeless kids in the Arrowhead. Some will go to Duluth where there are organizations that work with unsheltered and at-risk youth. The remaining blankets will be donated to other organizations in the region.
Along the way, people have also donated personal hygiene supplies which will also be distributed, and $90 cash, which was donated to the Two Harbors Area Food Shelf. Matching funds were applied for a total of $180—enough for 100 meals for kids and families.
Brjen’s determination and generosity were noticed by the North Shore Rotary and he was asked to tell his story at their Tuesday morning meeting.
“I’m excited and nervous,” he said.
Tuesday evening Janelle Jones spoke to the Lake County News-Chronicle and reported that Brjen did a great job with his speech and that he handed out cards inviting members to donate blankets, too.
Anyone who would like to contribute to Brjen’s blanket drive may call 834-5081. The Jones’ say they will be collecting blankets for three more weeks.