Two brothers from Bay Ridge, who believe the secret to living is giving, went on a mission to spread happiness this holiday season with their “Blankets of Hope” campaign on Sunday, December 18.
Nick, 24, and Mike Fiorito, 20, passed out almost 100 blankets and jackets to the homeless throughout Manhattan, starting off with Madison Square Park and venturing towards 29th and 30th Streets.
“Our hope is really to get millions of homeless people off the streets one day and make a difference by inspiring them, giving them hope and believing in them,” Nick said. “When you’re homeless, it’s really difficult to believe good can come out of the situation you’re in, but hope can propel you.”
He added that the number of homeless, as well as the number of homeless who freeze to death, are staggering statistics. Thus, the brothers recruited their girlfriends, family and friends to join in on the gift of giving.
“We wanted to hand [the blankets and jackets] to [the homeless] personally to give them a feeling of love and show them that they’re not alone in this cold weather,” Nick said. “We really just wanted to give them some encouragement.”
The “Blankets of Hope” campaign was something the duo thought of two years ago. When Nick used to work in an insurance company located in Manhattan, he would always pass through Madison Square Park on the way to his office.
“It would be freezing and I would put my head down and walk really quickly to my office,” Nick said. “And every day I would see these homeless men shivering in the cold and I would think I want to do something about this. I ended up not doing anything about it that whole winter.”
However, this past July, Nick and Mike had a self-realization, quit their jobs, became life coaches and finally took action and did something this year.
The brothers set up a GoFundMe page in late October and raised $370 in funds, for a total of $450 in cash. Then they reached out to their local parish, Regina Pacis, located at 65th Street between 12th and 13th Avenues, and raised double the amount of blankets that $450 could have bought.
“It was really able to touch people in the church and we saw it when we saw the outcome of the blankets the next week,” Nick said.
In addition, a man in his 70s, whom the brothers never met before, approached Mike while they were collecting the blankets and gave him the longest and biggest hug ever. The man started crying and whispered in Mike’s ear “Thank you.”
“That was really powerful,” Mike said. “It was almost selfish to give because it makes you feel so good.”
Hence, the brothers are considering making what they do a lifelong journey.
“A lot of people think of volunteering as this really big thing but it can be as simple as doing something for one person,” Nick said. “If we can get more people to do that, the world will be a better place. That’s what we want to inspire people with that whole movement.
“We don’t think we can cure everything but we know that if we can help one person, we can change everything for that one person,” he added.