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A blanket statement; keeping the homeless warm

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel
  • 28th bomb Wing Public Affairs

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – A mental health technician assigned to the 28th Medical Group formed a donation event throughout the month of December 2016 in an effort to help the homeless of the Rapid City community during the frigid months of winter.

Airman 1st Class Katelin Offutt, a Chattanooga, Tenn., native, organized a group to prepare boxes around base to collect "Blankets for the Homeless." Though Offutt had not expected to get many covers, she was surprised by how many she received and how big the event became.

“I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of blankets,” Offutt explained. “We ended up getting more than 100 of them.”

Once the blankets were gathered, the 11 volunteers brought them over to both the Hope Center and Cornerstone Rescue Mission who in turn helped distribute them to those who need it.

“Both the mission and the center were very pleased and excited to have blankets to pass out to their customers,” said David Butler, the family advocacy program assistant assigned to the 28th MDG. “They don't see a lot of blanket donations, so to get a big donation of blankets right before Christmas was truly a big deal.”

According to Tony Knodell, the program manager at The Cornerstone Rescue Mission, Offutt’s efforts were a tremendous help, especially with the cold spout and the shortage of blankets they were experiencing.

“It helps with the immediate need we have,” Knodell explained. “It allows us to provide those in our shelter with new blankets – replacing the blankets that are old and have holes.”

Donations like these are important for the organization because it run off both the community and Ellsworth, and would not be able to operate without them.

“It’s important to gain awareness for these types of things,” Offutt said. “I didn’t even know how many homeless people were in Rapid City until I started this. There are more than 300 of them out there with over a hundred of them under 18, and it just blew my mind that this many people are struggling in life and have gotten to this point.”

With the first year of “Blankets for the Homeless” being a success, Offutt plans to make it an annual event.

“She didn't just volunteer, she put it together; now that is a leader,” Butler said. “She is a very caring person and felt in her heart that there should be something she could do to make an impact on the less fortunate. She knew there were coats, hats, and scarfs already being donated, but she wanted to do something different.”

Butler added that he believes Offutt chose blankets as an item to donate because it’s not something commonly donated and yet it’s an item pivotal to staying warm during the winter seasons, especially in South Dakota.

“She has inspired other Airman to look at ways they can help in the community,” Butler explained. “She is always willing to step in and help, she is awesome!”

Offutt hopes that through her volunteer efforts homeless people see someone does care about them.

“It feels really good,” Offutt explained. “It’s not just a bullet to me, I love doing stuff for other people. It’s just always what I’ve done, and being able to do this on such a scale with this many people feels great.”