It all began In 1998 when Diane and Carey Smolensky took their children, Blake and Rachel, to a Chicago Bulls Game. On the way home, they drove through a part of the city where people less fortunate were living, Lower Wacker Drive. The impact of this experience posed the question from Blake and Rachel, "What can we do to help?"
We began to gather blankets, clothing, and preparing meal bags to personally help as many of Chicago's homeless as we possibly could. We organized a caravan of our family and friends. Periodically, this continued over the years.
In 2014, Carey Smolensky Productions expanded this project and made this an annual event: "Warm Clothing and Giving Hearts Drive." With the dedication of additional volunteers, support from our family of companies, and donations from other local businesses, we have continued to expand the impact on Chicago's homeless community in the bitter cold of Winter.
Throughout the year, local businesses, family, friends, and vendors donate blankets, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, pants, jackets, personal hygiene products, shoes, and basic human essentials. Additionally, Diane and Carey purchase supplies, food, and new blankets and clothing.
The night before the big day, our volunteers meet up and organize the donations and prepare bagged meals and bottles of water for distribution. On the third Saturday in December, we caravan into the city of Chicago seeking out the homeless population, and distribute food, clothing, basic essentials, and, just as important, HUGS!
By spending time with the people we are helping, it is amazing to watch as their lives are impacted by our efforts. If only for a brief time, our hearts are forever fuller with their stories of survival and their daily struggles.
In March 2017 we have officially named this annual charity drive, "A Warmer Winter." We are truly making a difference in people's lives, and are grateful for everyone who contributes their time, clothing and efforts.