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2 Cowell students launch drive to spread cheer
CowellBlanketDrive 4
Joshua Cowell School Vice Principal Randi Sousa-Fowzer and sixth graders Maddie Cebreros and Alli Matthews pack the nearly 100 blankets that the school collected in their first ever blanket drive. The blankets will be delivered to the HOPE Family Shelter in Manteca this weekend. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin

The families at Manteca HOPE Shelter and Raymus Home in Manteca are getting a truck-load delivery of blankets this weekend.

The nearly 100 new and gently used winter warmers are gifts of the heart from the students and staff of Joshua Cowell School. The blanket drive itself is the brainchild of sixth-graders Maddie Cebreros and Alli Mathews.

They came up with the idea a few days ago during one of their regular conversations.

“We thought we’d do something nice for people in the community” during the holiday season, Alli said.

“We realized how many people are suffering from the cold through the winter,” Maddie said, and that’s when they decided to hold a blanket drive for those who would need something to keep them warm during the cold weather.

They then brainstormed as to where they could take the blankets. They looked at various shelter facilities in the local area. Eventually, they decided to “start with our home shelter” in Manteca, Maddie said. While the HOPE Family Shelter is what they initially had in mind, the shelter staff told them that some of the blankets will be distributed also to the residents at the Raymus Home on South Union Road which is a respite place for single women and their children.

The blanket drive involved all Joshua Cowell students from kindergarten to eighth grade. The classroom with the most blankets collected will be awarded with a pizza party after the winter break. That party was offered as an incentive to the students, Vice Principal Randi Sousa-Fowzer said.

The fourth-grade class of teacher Jerri Brown won hands down, collecting more than 40 blankets of the 82 collected so far on Wednesday.

Sousa-Fowzer said they were quite surprised at the number of donations they received given the fact they only started the drive just a few days ago.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

They did as much promotion as they could deploy during the short period of time that they had in conducting the drive. They sent flyers to students’ parents, displayed the flyers in the classrooms, and had the announcement in the school marquee. Discarded computer boxes were placed in individual classrooms where the donations were deposited.

Maddie and Alli said they would like to see the winter blanket drive an annual event.

“We want to make it a tradition,” something that they hope to see continue even after they have graduated from the school, Alli said.

One thing that they want to change next year, though, is to get it started earlier in December, Sousa-Fowzer said.