ELIZABETHTOWN —The Bladen Journal’s fourth annual “Roger’s Wish” project to collect blankets and sleeping bags for the county’s homeless and needy officially kicks off Monday, but many got a jump on contributing items more than a week ahead of the project’s start.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had so many blankets brought in before the project even got started,” said W. Curt Vincent, general manager and editor of the Bladen Journal. “We are cautiously optimistic that this means we’ll see a record number of donations this time around.”
“Roger’s Wish” is a community project by the newspaper in memory of Roger Grunder, who came up with the idea to collect blankets and sleeping bags for the homeless and needy a handful of years ago. Although he enlisted the help of the Bladen Journal to act as a collection point and was able to see the effort get started back in 2013, Grunder was tragically killed in a car accident before the collection effort was even a few weeks old.
“The staff of the Bladen Journal at that time, which had come to know Roger pretty well, decided to continue his vision and memorialize him by naming the effort for him,” Vincent said. “In many ways, the effort remains guided by Roger’s wish to help those in need — which always struck us as amazing, since Roger was also homeless.”
Jeffry Bryan of White Oak, who was a good friend of Grunder, was one of the first to bring his donation.
“Roger had a good heart,” Bryan said. “I hope others will consider donating in October.”
Grunder, who was well known around Elizabethtown from his volunteer work at the Bladen County Crisis Thrift Store, as well as his regular visits with downtown businesses, could often be seen sitting on a bench reading or riding his bicycle through town.
“He always seemed to be a good-natured guy who had a ready smile and joke for those he visited with,” Vincent said. “Our pizza lunches with Roger were usually filled with a lot of laughter because he never took himself too seriously.
“We hope individuals, businesses, church groups, school groups and civic groups adopt this effort,” he added.
Just two days prior to his death, Grunder was saved and baptized at Open Door Ministries on N.C. 87 in Elizabethtown.
Over the first three years of the project, more than 450 items have been collected and distributed to those in need in Bladen County. The newspaper staff is hoping to eclipse the 200-item mark this time around — and it’s off to a terrific start. As of Friday, a total of 37 blankets and one sleeping bag had been donated to the cause.
“Roger’s Wish” will continue throughout the month of October, finishing up on Monday, Oct. 31. The items collected will then be given out to those in need on Friday, Nov. 4, at the Bladen Journal office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Those wanting to contribute blankets and/or sleeping bags can bring them to the Bladen Journal office in downtown Elizabethtown between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Anyone with questions can call 910-862-4163.