By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Kim Gormley, store manager at Boscov’s in Hazleton, held up a blue wrist band that said it all.
“What would Al do?” was printed on the band that is worn by nearly every Boscov employee throughout the company’s 50-store chain.
That basic Boscov philosophy is the inspiration behind a new project that Irene Kelly, Boscov’s regional marketing/public relations manager, brought to the table during a luncheon meeting Wednesday in the Wilkes-Barre store.
Kelly’s idea — “A Blanket from Al” — will provide blankets to people in need — the homeless, those in need and those struggling day to day. It will kick off on Sept. 22, the first day of autumn, and run through October.
“I think it will be a good thing for the community to be involved in and a great way to honor Albert R. Boscov,” Kelly said to begin the meeting.
Al Boscov died Feb. 10 at the age of 87. His wife, Eunice, once told a story that Kelly said moved her to come up with the project to honor her longtime boss.
During a ceremony in Reading a few years ago, Boscov was being honored and a statue was unveiled of his likeness. Eunice told a story about her husband, recalling an incident that occurred early in their marriage.
Eunice said she and Al were driving through the mountains in New York State and came upon an accident. On a recording played at the meeting, Eunice can be heard telling the story:
“Albert pulled over and reached for a blanket in the trunk of his car. He never hesitated to help the injured person. Al always had a blanket for anyone that needed one.”
Eunice said Al took the blanket to the scene of the accident to see if someone could use it.
That’s when Kelly said “a light went off in her head.”
“I thought, we need to do a blanket drive in Albert’s memory,” she said.
Kelly said so far the Boscov’s stores in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Hazleton and Pottsville are on board with the project. She said she will take her idea to Boscov’s corporate officers — Eunice and her daughter and nephew Jim — to request all Boscov’s stores get involved.
Monsignor Joseph Kelly, former director of Catholic Social Services, attended the meeting, and he will handle the distribution of the blankets. He commended the project and said the blankets are always needed.
“We have people sleeping in the woods, behind buildings, under bridges and along the river,” he said. “Blankets will certainly help them cope with the awful weather we always get.”
More details will be released as the project nears, but Irene Kelly said only new blankets will be accepted, or people can purchase gift cards, and blankets will be purchased. She said the blankets do not have to be purchased at a Boscov’s store. She said full, queen or king-size blankets are requested. She said no small blankets, or throws, or electric blankets will be accepted.
Christmas in July
Then sixth annual Boscov’s Christmas in July project will be held the month of July to raise money for food and clothing for people in need, especially members of the local homeless community.
Irene Kelly said a Christmas tree will again be set up in the stores, where customers can pick an ornament and help support a special friend in need from the community by purchasing the item listed on the ornament and bringing it to the courtesy desk on the fourth level of the store through July 31.
Kelly said customers will also be able to buy a pin-up for $1 at any register to help support Catholic Social Services. Every dollar goes directly to the cause and is used to buy items like socks, underwear and T-shirts.
Boscov’s and Catholic Social Services of Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties will again work together to hold a food drive for the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre, which is in desperate need of canned goods like tuna, fruit, soup and vegetables, along with boxes of cereal, peanut butter, jelly, macaroni and cheese and all nonperishable foods. Donations of food can be dropped into the barrel next to the Christmas tree on Boscov’s fourth level once the project begins.