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Carlsbad man doing his part to help the homeless one blanket at a time

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Posted at 10:57 AM, Oct 21, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Carlsbad resident Bob Dalton created a multi-million-dollar company in a quest to help the homeless, and he sees himself as part of an ongoing societal shift in the way we tackle the homelessness crisis.

“The blankets themselves are made from recycled material,” Dalton said as he showed ABC 10News one of his wool blankets. “All of our fabric is made in Florence, Italy. Literally made from like T-shirts and sweatshirts that are like put into a grinder, grinded up and turned into yarn.”

That recycling approach is one aspect of the societal conscience of Dalton’s company, Sackcloth & Ashes. The company produces some 14,000 blankets a month, while donating one to a homeless shelter for each one sold.

Dalton said he began the venture knowing next to nothing about making blankets.

“I started with a sewing machine from JOANN Fabrics,” said Dalton. “I tried to learn how to sew. I realized I'm horrible at sewing and found a lady in my community to make blankets.”

That was 10 years ago when Dalton was 24. He said the mission was sparked by a very personal experience, after his single mother -- who had two college degrees -- ended up homeless and on the streets.

“So through her journey, it was like I want to do something about homelessness. So, I started calling homeless shelters in my area to ask what they needed, and they said, blankets,” Dalton said.

As with many new ventures, Dalton's efforts were heartfelt but modest in the beginning, producing just a handful of blankets until a big break on social media.

“We got Instagram posting on their account about us to 42 million people,” said Dalton. “That’s when I realized my local seamstress isn't going to be able to keep up.”

Dalton said he went to the Los Angeles Fashion District to learn more about materials. And that’s where he met a broker of Italian fabric and established the import of thousands of wool and fleece blankets made from recycled clothing and other materials.

Dalton was asked if having a cause was good business and if customers were more attracted to a product if they know it's going to help others

He responded, “I would say if it's done in an authentic way; there should be some deeper motive than just trying to cut a check to an organization and say that you've done your part.”

And that's where Dalton sees a societal shift taking place.

“We're moving from cause marketing -- which is, ‘Look at all the amazing work that we're doing as a company’ -- to marketing a cause. Which is, ‘Look at all the amazing work that they're doing.’ And working at finding not just a cause, but organizations that are helping to solve societal problems,” he told ABC 10News.

Dalton said he knows just giving blankets to the homeless isn't going to solve the problem. But it provides an inroad to those doing the real work. And as his company grows, he foresees a greater power to promote what others are doing.

“There's what I'm calling democratized giving,” explained Dalton. “Everyone has a responsibility and a role in this. And if we can help identify those organizations that need support, it's opening up the door for individuals and other businesses to come in and support them."

Even the packaging of Sackcloth & Ashes encourages the buyer to become directly involved on a deeper level.

Dalton opens a blanket box and points out the inside cover, saying, “When you pull the blanket out of the box it says, take it a step further place the following items in this box and give to your local shelter.”

Along with encouraging customers to do more, Sackcloth & Ashes has locked in partnerships with national companies like KB Homes, REI, and World Market in their effort to "Blanket the United States."

For every blanket sold, one is sent to a shelter in the same area where the customer lives.

In the San Diego area, that includes local resources like the San Diego Rescue Mission and Humanity Showers in San Diego’s North County.