Kristen Manieri is travel and lifestyle writer living in Orlando, FL with her husband and two little girls. Her work has appeared in such publications as Air Tran’s GO Magazine, Dreamscapes, Florida Guides, Costco Connection and Orlando Magazine. Living in the Sunshine State has given Kristen endless adventures and writing material as she’s explored Florida from Amelia Island all the way down to Key West.

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Giving Tuesday Orlando: Nikki’s Blankets

Giving Tuesday Orlando: Nikki's Blankets TodaysMama.com

My favorite Orlando charity is Nikki’s Blankets, and in honor of Giving Tuesday, I am putting the spotlight on her. Since 2009, Nikki Kingsland has collected more than 5,000 blankets, sleeping bags and backpacks for the Central Florida homeless. That’s impressive, but what’s really astounding is that Nikki is just 13 years old.

“Before all this started this, I didn’t really understand homelessness,” Nikki says. “But it’s helped me realize that what I have is a lot better than what a lot of kids my age have. It’s made me more thankful.”

It’s also made her more resourceful. In the four years since she started Nikki’s Blankets, she’s partnered with drop-off locations, created a website, and now runs a Facebook page, which she uses to share details of her campaign but also notify her supporters of blanket sales happening at retailers in the Orlando area.

Here’s an example of a recent post: “Kohl’s black Friday sale has started today. They have their $13.99 blankets on sale for $3.99. Use the code 20FORU and get an extra 20% off AND with every $50 you spend you get $15 in Kohl’s cash back.” Pretty ingenious, right!

What’s even cooler than her social media skills or the new Go Fund Me.com campaign she recently started, is that Nikki, along with her little sister and parents, hands out many of the blankets in person at Lake Eola on Christmas morning, an experience she says has taught her not to judge. “These families didn’t plan on ending up here,” Nikki says. “Being with them makes me the happiest person in the world because I know I have done something to help. I know that the greatest gift is the gift of giving.”

To find out more about supporting Nikki visit her Facebook page and Go Fund Me.com.

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