Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Through Blankets of Hope, Brooklyn brothers aim to spark a global movement of kindness

While commuting to work on a particularly hot summer day, Mike Fiorito turned to his brother, Nick, and made a suggestion that left him floored.

"We were on the New York City subway, and every person on the train looked absolutely miserable," Mike told The Week. "Nick said, 'There has to be more to life than what we're doing right now,' and I said, 'Let's quit our jobs.' He thought it was a joke, but I was kind of serious." Before long, they both gave their two weeks notice.

Success didn't come instantly, and by winter, the brothers were having a lot of sleepless nights. Early one morning, Nick remembered a homeless man he used to pass every day while going to work, and decided one thing he could do was ask for donations, buy some blankets, and pass them out to those in need.

The brothers attached notes to the blankets, recalling the handwritten letters their mother, an Italian immigrant, used to attach to birthday and Christmas gifts. "We said, 'We want you to know we care about you,' 'You matter,' and 'We believe in you,'" Nick said. The Fioritos documented how and where the blankets were distributed in short daily videos, and that's when everything changed.

More people wanted to donate, and a venture capitalist called and offered mentorship and financial support. That's when Nick and Mike realized their business could be a nonprofit, giving out blankets to the homeless. Blankets of Hope, based in Brooklyn, was born in 2016, with a mission to inspire a global movement of kindness. Along with sending out blankets, the organization teams up with schools in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico; after watching Blankets of Hope tutorials on empathy, students write messages of encouragement that are attached to the blankets.

Last year, Blankets of Hope distributed 10,000 blankets, and the goal this year is 20,000, rising to a million blankets in 2025. Being able to make a true difference in the lives of others is an amazing feeling, Nick said, made even better because he's doing this with his brother. "We were speakers at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, and at the airport during breakfast I looked at Mike and said, 'How cool is this that we get to do this together?'" Nick said. "It wouldn't be the same if we weren't together. To have this experience, that's really special."