Preparing for Winter

The Salvation Army gathers and distributes winter coats and accessories

As winter and winter weather approach, it’s almost time for The Salvation Army and other non-profits to prepare for winter coat and winter accessory season. At The Salvation Army, that means coat and accessory drives, coat closets or racks and coat vouchers for its family stores.

In Bowling Green, KY, The Salvation Army gets coats mainly from individual donations, many of which it solicits through its Facebook page (where last winter it collected 200 in one day). It also has groups holding donation drives, especially as the season goes on.

“With the Facebook page, we’ll put out a note that we need coats, and the community really responses. The great thing about Bowling Green is that we really have a good community that listens to our needs and acts on them,” Social Services Director Heather Gordon said.

One way the Army distributes coats is coat racks it has in the hall near its soup kitchen. It began giving them out in mid-October.

“It’s just there for people who need it,” Gordon said. “We don’t care about the demographics or financial information. It’s basically just if you need a coat, come and get it. We replenish it on a daily basis because we serve 150 to 220 a day in the soup kitchen, and so you can imagine the (number of) people coming in to get the coats.”

There are at least 30 coats on the racks at a time, for ages ranging from small child to adult. About 10 other kids’ coats (including, in the beginning, any left over from the last year’s Angel Tree) are kept in the social services office to give to shelter residents since The Salvation Army has eight family units in Bowling Green.

“If we see someone who we don’t think has the financial means to buy themselves a coat, we’ll tell them we have some to make sure their needs are met,” Gordon said. “But some people are embarrassed to go get a coat off a rack. We don’t want that to be the reason why they’re cold, so if we foresee that to be a problem, we will pull them aside and make sure they get one.”

The Clarksville, TN Salvation Army also works to make sure everyone who needs a coat gets one. It does this with several annual winter clothing drives by churches, the local military post, college sororities and fraternities and a local radio station.

“Last year, we got over 120 coats,” social worker Brian Campbell said. “We had a lot of them donated not just for our residents at the shelter but also people in the community who need them. We opened our chapel one day, and anybody that needed a coat could come in and pick one out.”

He said while the Army always has donation drives, it also gets coats from individual donors, who give both new and used coats, as well as hats, gloves and scarves. Often, though, those are just for residents of the Salvation Army shelter.

In Johnson City, TN, at least one group a year hosts a coat drive. Receptionist Jay Stoneking said this year the Cornerstone Village retirement community began hosting one at the beginning of this month, which will end at the end of November or the beginning of December.

“They basically want to collect new and gently used coats for children and families. They have three locations, where they’re collecting them,” he said, noting that the group held drives in the past, but it’s been a few years, so the people want to restart it.

The Sevierville, TN Salvation Army also received coat drive donations earlier this fall because the local Belk store bringing them just wanted to do that.

“They did a used coat drive right outside their store,” Capt. Sarah Birks said. “We didn’t know they were doing that. They just brought them over one day – a little box full – and said, ‘We did this coat drive.’ It was SO nice of them! We weren’t expecting that at all.”

She said The Salvation Army doesn’t do coat drives because another non-profit there does and also if people need one from The Salvation Army, they will be give a voucher to the family store, where they can pick one out.

The voucher system is also how the Ashland, KY Salvation Army gives clients coats. If it receives any extra, it will first give them to shelter clients before filling orders as needed or using them for the Angel Tree program.

In addition to the coats, The Salvation Army tries to provide as many hats and gloves as it can. In Ashland, many of those come in through the Glove Thy Neighbor program.

“There are several community organizations involved,” Social Services Director Susan Dickens said. “We also have a couple banks, a hospital and some other businesses, as well as other civic organizations like the Kiwanis Club, who bring in donations.”