What started as a homegrown effort by two brothers, Nick and Michael Fiorito, to spread kindness and warmth in their immediate community has now grown into a nationwide effort. Blankets of Hope is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, an educational organization started by the two brothers, one of whom is a Hudson County resident. The mission of the organization is to teach kindness through serving those in the community. We had a chance to connect with co-founder Nick Fiorito to learn more about the impact the organization has on our community.
How It Started
“Blankets of Hope was never really supposed to be what it is today,” shared Nick. “It started as a small family project, just me and my brother going out on the streets of New York City and handing out some blankets to a few people who needed them.” he continued, “fast forward six years later and it’s turned into an international movement of kindness.”
(Photo credit: @boh)
Nick and Michael Fiorito are brothers originally from Brooklyn, New York. They were both working corporate jobs when they realized their work was no longer fulfilling. After multiple failed attempts at entrepreneurship, they decided to take a much-needed break and give back to the community. “Homelessness is something we see in our backyard every day. Growing up in New York, it’s something we saw all the time,” shared Nick about the catalyst for the organization. They decided to work together to start to support the community in a small way by providing warmth.
Picking Up Speed
After the first delivery of a few blankets, they saw the need was great and decided to start a GoFundMe account to raise money for even more. They secured enough money to purchase and distribute 100 blankets, but what they did not know is that even more support was on its way.
“We created a short video to show and thank the people who donated to the cause so they could see what we were doing. We posted it to our Facebook page and that’s it. We thought Blankets of Hope was done and that it would just be a fun, family project,” said Nick.
“But, God, the Universe, a higher being, or whatever you believe in had a greater plan for us! We got an email that would really change the trajectory of our lives.” Nick continued sharing, “The email had a subject line that said, ‘Donation for Nick and Mike.’” The email was from a venture capitalist offering monetary resources and mentorship to bring Blankets of Hope to the next level. “If I’m being honest, I don’t think Mike and I saw it at the time, but we really bought into his belief in us and started growing.”
Make It Educational
As Mike and Nick started to shift their focus entirely to Blankets of Hope, even more people started to take notice, which helped bring another aspect to the organization. At the core of Blankets of Hope is spreading kindness. While the organization gives blankets to those in need, what it’s really providing is a sense of hope and human kindness. After a local news station ran a feature on the organization, a special person took notice, Nick’s 5th grade teacher.
“We had our second stroke of luck or magic when my 5th grade teacher saw us on the news and reached out. She said ‘Hey! I have about 200 students who would love to get involved,’” shared Nick. This was the starting point of bringing Blankets of Hope into schools.
(Photo credit: @boh)
With Social-Emotional Learning opportunities on the rise, Blankets of Hope recognized the impact this program could have on school-aged children and decided to get even more students involved. “That was when the lightbulb really went off for us. We knew that this is what we wanted Blankets of Hope to really be about: to help kindness spread far and wide and get the next generation involved.”
How It Works
As a school program, Blankets of Hope provides educational materials for a full lesson from start to finish. “Blankets of Hope, more than anything, is an experience,” shared Nick. Leaders from Blankets of Hope go into classrooms to facilitate the program starting off with a kindness workshop where the students participate in an empathy exercise to gain a better understanding of who the blankets are for and what that person may be experiencing. Then, the students write a letter to the recipient of the blanket that is attached for the person to read. Finally, the students are guided through a love and kindness meditation.
“The students close their eyes and send love to themselves, to their classmates, and to the person that’s about to receive that blanket,” shared Nick. The school collects the letters and blankets and drops them off at a local homeless shelter for the guests.
“By the end of the program, we have students asking what more they can do for their community, which is really what this is all about,” said Nick. “We hope that this small, 30-minute experience is just the beginning of a ripple effect that goes on and on and on,” he continued. “These are the next CEOs of companies, lawyers, doctors, and more and we hope that by starting to teach kindness at a young age it will impact them later in life.” Currently, Blankets of Hope is available in over 500 schools in 43 states.
Participating in the mission of Blankets of Hope allows for a double impact as it allows the student to take part in the program and a person in need to receive a blanket. Those wishing to make an impact are invited to visit the Blankets of Hope website to learn even more about the organization and to donate.
The Board of Directors covers the operating costs, which means that 100% of all donations go directly to purchasing blankets. A donation will allow Blankets of Hope to fulfill its mission of spreading kindness internationally.
“Our tagline is ‘the secret to living is giving,’ and I think if we can get that message out into the world and people think less about themselves and are waking up every day, and asking the question, ‘how can I serve’ we will live in a much better place,” said Nick. Blankets of Hope is doing just that and is helping the nation become a kinder place.
To learn more about Blankets of Hope, or to start a program in your community, please visit the website.