By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Julia Howard, a young singer-songwriter, has always made a point of connecting to others through her love of music. The Algonquin Regional High School junior, who hails from Southborough, has been performing for almost nine years. Recently, after volunteering with Our Father’s Table, a nonprofit ecumenical outreach program which feeds the poor and homeless in the Marlborough area, she came up with an idea to combine her love of performing with a fundraiser to benefit the organization.
“A few weeks ago I went with my church and my family to serve meals to the homeless at Our Father’s Table in Marlborough. This winter has been exceptionally cold and everyone that came in was freezing,” she said. “Many of them did not have warm jackets, don’t have a home and some even live in their car. One man that I spoke with shared that even his car heater was broken.”
“This was the catalyst for my idea about how to help people stay warm,” she added. “Blankets would help and so that’s when I started the ‘Spread the Warmth…One Blanket at a Time’ movement.”
Howard reached out to several local venues to see if they would be willing to host a collection bin. Everyone she contacted, she said, was so eager to help.
Her goal is to collect 100 blankets and she is well on the way.
“I am so excited by the warm response – literally – we have been getting for this project. So far we have raised almost $300 and have collected a few dozen blankets. Everyone, regardless of his or her situation, deserves to be warm. We are focusing on blankets but, of course, we can also collect gloves, hats, scarves and other warm clothing items,” said Howard.
In addition, Howard will be performing (as Julie James) at a Music Can Warm Hearts fundraising event Friday, Jan. 19, from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Brook Kitchen & Tap, 51 Main St., Maynard. All of the proceeds from this event will be going toward her fundraising efforts.
Her parents could not be prouder of what she has set out to accomplish, her mother, Patty Howard, said.
“Julia excites others to get involved and this project has just taken off,” she said. “I love her selfless thought process of ‘what can I do?’ to help others. There are so many in need and by her choosing to use her musical talent to reach out and help others is inspiring. Her dad and I are really proud of her.”
Mary Ellen Duggan, the vice president of Our Father’s Table and a member of St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough, noted the positive impact of Howard’s efforts.
“Julia’s project is truly an example of how we are called to live our lives – loving others. Hopefully, every time someone wraps themselves in one of these blankets, they will know they are loved and cared for,” she said.
Anyone wishing to donate blankets can drop them off at Algonquin Regional High School, 79 Bartlett St., Northborough; the children’s room lobby of the Southborough Library, 25 Main St.; the Marlborough Fire Station, 215 Maple St. (Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or St. Anne’s Church, 20 Boston Post Road, Southborough (inside the church by the front doors). The collection sites will remain open until Tuesday, Jan. 30.
Donations can be mailed directly to Our Father’s Table, P.O. Box 916, Marlborough, MA 01752.
Follow Howard on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thejuliajames/.