The need never stops and neither do we,” says Operation Blankets of Love Founder Eileen Smulson, a former school teacher and nonprofit fundraiser who created the animal welfare organization out of her desire to help animals.
“It all started on a cold rainy day in January 2008 when I saw puppies shivering at an animal shelter near my home,” recalls Eileen. “Disturbed to think of my first pet, Ginger, that I adopted in 2003 lying on a cold, hard cement floor, I expressed my concern to the head of the shelters.” That conversation led to a meeting with the shelter manager, who explained there was no budget to purchase much-needed items, and an offer to help from Eileen, who collected over 800 blankets and towels for the animals in just a few weeks. And she didn’t stop there—realizing the need for blankets, towels and other items, Eileen established 20 drop-off locations and collected over 3,000 more items in several months.
Since its founding in 2008, Operation Blankets of Love has helped more than 12,000 homeless dogs and cats a year, donating lifesaving pet food, treats, blankets and towels, beds, leashes, collars, harnesses, toys, crates, medical and grooming supplies and more to shelters, rescue groups, animal transporters, foster caretakers, and wildlife sanctuaries. With a mission to “improve the health of homeless animals and increase their chances for survival and adoption” and “eliminate animal homelessness and euthanasia,” OBOL has established 50+ drop-off sites and has collected over 5.5 million animal comfort and care supplies and thousands of pounds of pet food to date, valued at over $7.5 million.
Partnering with volunteers and organizations, including the American Red Cross of Los Angeles, Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, Volunteers of America and many more, OBOL also works on call to distribute pet food and supplies during natural disasters, floods, earthquakes and pandemics.
“Every year we grow larger and larger—a big thank you to our supporters!” says Eileen, adding that during the Covid pandemic, “We never stopped one day.” With animal rescue organizations struggling with funding to afford necessities, OBOL is committed to help.
“We are there for them,” says Eileen. “We help organizations that help the homeless; they come to for pet items and we give them donations. The number one need is food, and number two is blankets.”
Working around the clock to help the animals, Eileen and her husband Brad, who now runs the daily operations, have also faced pandemic-related obstacles.
“The challenge for us was we took a substantial financial hit; we had to cancel many fundraising and adoption events,” says Eileen, who also teaches a Humane Education Learning Program to schoolchildren, Girl Scouts and other groups.
“We teach children how to be good to animals and the kids do a collection of gently used items and blankets,” says Eileen, whose bilingual (English/Spanish) kids’ coloring workbook is also used for education and outreach internationally.
“We sent the booklet to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru and Canada,” says Eileen, noting that OBOL works with pet rescues around the world, including saving dogs from meat markets in the Philippines and rescuing sick and abandoned street dogs and cats in Mexico.
The Smulsons recently adopted a Spaniel mix they named Molly from a rescue in Mexico.
“She was abused, tied up in the sun, with hardly any food or water; she had fleas, ticks, and was bleeding from the neck,” recalls Eileen, noting, “She’s a bilingual dog and she learned English very quickly!”
Today, Molly is loved and happy and serves as OBOL’s Humane Education Ambassador, teaching how to love and respect all animals and telling her rescue story as part of OBOL’s educational programs.
Eileen encourages adoption as the best option and invites animal adopters to share their photos and rescue stories online at OBOL.info.
Learn more, donate items or volunteer at OBOL.info.