Protea Hotel Fire & Ice!

Winter means red wine, hearty oxtail and fireplaces to many people, but to others it’s the most dreaded time of year when icy hands are warmed at open fires and a blanket becomes life’s biggest dream.

That’s why Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! in Cape Town and Melrose Arch are throwing open their doors starting from the end of this week to all the “haves” who have blankets to help those who don’t by enthusiastically raiding their cupboards and making this year’s Twitter Blanket Drive the most successful ever.

And Protea Hotels is certainly putting its money where its cupboard is this year too: hotels in the group are calling on Housekeeping to scrounge blankets from every nook and cranny and donate what will amount to hundreds of winter warmers to the social media cause.

#TBD started just over three years ago with a single tweet posted by Melanie Minnaar (@melanieminnaar). When she called on the South African Twitter community to donate blankets to those in need in winter in 2010 she was hoping to get no more than 20 people together for a “Tweet-up” (Twitter meet-up) where they would hand blankets over to a charity together.

Within two weeks the idea had gone viral and over 700 blankets were raised to be distributed to charities. In 2011 the number leapt to 2 700 blankets and it snowballed in 2012. Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch alone collected around 4 000 blankets.

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! GMs Johan Cronje and Gabrielle Abrahams believe if just 2% (44 000) of the country’s 2.2 million Twitter users donate blankets at their hotels, South Africa is going to have a much warmer winter.

GUESTS staying in the hotels, who might not necessarily have travelled with their beloved blankies or don’t want to give them away, can join the cause as well by purchasing a blanket at the hotels for just R50.

The collection will culminate with special blanket drive events at both hotels on May 25.

In Cape Town in particular where winters are very wet, donations of polar fleece blankets are sorely needed because they dry more quickly, as are large ziplock bags for residents of informal settlements to keep any valuable documents such as Identity Books from getting waterlogged.

Group Marketing Manager for the Protea Hospitality Group, Nicholas Barenblatt says the company as a whole is committed to social investment.

“Our hotels form part of the fabric of their communities and giving back to them is a fundamental part of the work we do. Every hotel in the group supports at least one charity or NGO per year, but most do more than that.

”We’re immensely proud that our Fire & Ice! Hotels, that by their very identity synergise so well with the Twitter Blanket Drive, will be supporting at least a dozen charitable organisations with this one initiative alone.”

Barenblatt has also challenged companies in the hospitality industry to equal or better their collection of blankets.

Among the recipient charities this year are Foundation Backbone in the Western Cape, The House (for abused youth), Little Saints of Bethany which cares for abused women and children, and the Banakekelani Orphanage.