HYANNIS — As a predawn fog rolled in over the Capetown Plaza parking lot Friday, only a few cars trickled in for what traditionally has been one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Among the hardy shoppers was Jonathan Weisblatt, wearing a jingling elf hat. He was ready to take on the stores on Black Friday to buy clothing, jackets and pants for children in need on Cape Cod.
“The money just stretches further on Black Friday,” he said.
With two carts to fill and a long list, Jonathan Weisblatt starts his Black Friday at 4 a.m., shopping for the Homeless Prevention Council’s Adopt-a-Family program.
For close to two decades, Weisblatt has been waking up in the wee hours on the day after Thanksgiving to beat the crowds and get the best deals for the Adopt-A-Family holiday program.
Under the Homeless Prevention Council, the program began in 1995 and serves between 300 and 370 children annually, according to coordinator Maureen Linehan. The council has served up to 160 families a year in the past, and Linehan said this year she expects more will need help because of the economic hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council matches donors with children and families in need, sometimes working in conjunction with the Lower Cape Outreach Council and the Angel Fund. Donations may include cash, clothing, toys, a gift card or a special gift.
The need this year has been significant compared with years past, Linehan said. Potential clients may still sign up, and donations are still being accepted.
“The money that we collect goes toward shopping for kids who don’t get 'adopted,'” Linehan said. “Any way you can help out, we find a way to make it happen.”
Although there are many donors, Weisblatt stands out to Linehan because he has been doing the shopping on Black Friday for years.
“Every year, he goes on Black Friday,” she said. “That man is insane.”
A physical therapist for Cape Cod Healthcare, Weisblatt acts as a point person at his office. The 25 to 30 employees there donate money for about six to eight children each year. Weisblatt takes the donations and heads to the stores.
Typically, Weisblatt likes to go between the rush of when stores first open and when people begin to arrive in the early morning hours.
This year, the crowds were significantly smaller than in years past because of the pandemic. Many stores in the plaza did not even plan to open early.
Old Navy opened at 12:30 a.m., though, and Weisblatt was ready to shop by 4 a.m. The store, which is typically brimming with people on Black Friday, was virtually empty except for a few employees.
It made the task of going through the list of clothing for children ages 6 to 13 easier. He chose Old Navy because everything in the store was half-price.
As Weisblatt took two carts through the store, he meticulously went through his list of favorite colors and sizes to pick out the best clothes. At checkout, he also made sure to grab some fun holiday socks for $1 a pair.
Since he usually clogs up the line as he buys separate gift cards for each family, Weisblatt was relieved he was the only one there.
Leaving the store close to an hour later, he called the trip a success. But one Flash action figure, a wish-list item for one of the children, remained. He was off to the next store, Kohl's, searching for Flash apparel, and then Kmart for the action figure.
“The cool thing about doing this is that philanthropy and kindness cross all the barriers — religious, faith, sexual orientation and politics,” Weisblatt said. “There’s just you and us. Giving is just giving.”
Weisblatt has lived on the Cape since 1998 and learned about this program in the early 2000s. Despite layoffs at Cape Cod Healthcare this year, he was surprised by his staff’s generosity to this cause.
Waking up early to shop for Adopt-A-Family is a lot of fun, Weisblatt said, and a tradition he said he would continue.
“It’s just about being human,” he said.