Blanket Distribution Starts with Trip to the Ballet at Christmas

by John Cartwright

     A snowy Christmas Eve, a Cleveland Playhouse rendition of The Nutcracker, and one very young and naive child and his mother enjoy the show. This seems like the beginning of an innocent and pleasurable night on the town for a young child and his mother. The child, Joey Bucci, found suffering this night amid all the fancy clothes and aloof, fancy people. What he saw changed him forever.

     He was only a child of six when his mother took him to a showing of the Nutcracker in Downtown Cleveland, Ohio. But what he saw was more than just a ballet. What he saw changed his outlook on his all too young life forever. For Joey Bucci , after attending this ballet in the middle of the Christmas season seven years ago, asked his mother why these people were pushing carts and carrying luggage around the City of Cleveland at night in the middle of winter.

     He was so concerned, in his youthful way, that he asked his mother if she could go home and get some of the blankets that they had at their home and bring them back to the unfortunate people he saw that night.

     Thus began a seven-year-long campaign by Joey and his family to help alleviate the suffering of some of the homeless people in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio and Geauga County areas.

     For this child of six years of age saw a problem and was not afraid to say that he knew that he could do something to help. So with the help of his family, he has been attempting to alleviate the suffering.

     Here is a child who saw poverty and suffering first hand. Here is a child who—unlike others—was so saddened by that very poverty, which he saw that night that it awakened a concern unlike any other in him. He was compelled to do something about what he saw in this glamorous and prosperous urban center.

     I decided to ask the people around Joey where he gets his inspiration. I called the Munson, Ohio Fire Department and spoke with the Fire Department Chief Bernie Harchar. He told me that Joey Bucci started this when he was seven years of age. His family got involved from the beginning by sending out flyers and that he wanted to use the fire department as a drop-off center for this campaign.

“The amount of things that he has collected and stored here has filled up the place since he started doing this. He also has a lot of other things stored in other places, also. I was impressed with the response from the community,” said the chief. “People are bringing in new items with the price tags still on them. I think that he is showing the people of Munson Township that if they chip in and help, that they can make a difference. It is amazing to see the number of blankets that are still in their packages, gloves and hats with the price tags still on them and other items that people are bringing in,” said Chief Harchar.

     “He has a heart of gold and cares an awful lot about people for a young man of his age. I understand that this all started when his parents took him downtown and saw a bunch of people pushing carts and carrying bags and his parents explained what homeless people were. I think that this was the inspirational point in his life,” said Chief Harchar.

     “I hope that the readers of this newspaper understand that this is a thirteen-year-old boy who has been doing this for seven years and will be probably be doing this for some time to come. The reason for this is because they are planning to do this again next year as I understand it,” said Chief Harchar.

     Susan Bucci, Joey’s mother said, “I think that he is becoming an activist in this matter and he wants to do it every year. People start calling to find out if we are going to collect stuff at the fire station every year. This has become a tradition in the township every year around Christmas. The family collects stuff from the Cleveland Carpenter’s union and local Geauga County churches and stores. We send out flyers about the ‘Warm a Heart Blanket Collection’ as it has become to be known in the Munson Township area. This is what Joey has called it since the beginning of it all.”

     Here’s to you, young Joey Bucci. You are making a difference in the lives of those around you. Not only are homeless people, who you are helping, grateful, but the people who contribute can help to change the world one blanket at a time. The people of greater Cleveland, and the citizens of Munson Township have all been affected in a positive way these small acts of kindness. While the ballet has closed up shop, homelessness has only increased. We need many more Joey Bucci’s delivering blankets to those who do not go into shelters.

Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Issue 59, February-March 2003, Cleveland, Ohio