Coats for Comfort Help Needy Stay Warm
Three years ago when Pinecrest junior Jennie Eastman began collecting coats, she never imagined where it would go.
She got the idea while riding in the car with her mom one afternoon. Caroline Eddy, then executive director of the Sandhills/Moore Coalition for Human Care, came on the radio with an announcement about winter coat donations.
"I was really shocked that people could go through the winter without even owning one coat," Eastman says.
So she started Coats for Comfort, a service to collect coats, scarves and gloves - anything anyone was willing to give up for the cause.
"I was so amazed by the response I got back," she says.
She started small, asking folks at her church and around the neighborhood to contribute to the cause. Her parents helped her collect items from peoples' houses to take to the Coalition.
Eddy's response was one of shock and gratitude.
"Perfect timing," Eddy says. "We were struggling to keep up with the requests for coats since it had turned cold early that winter. I couldn't believe how fortunate we were that she called to say she was going to do the Coats for Comfort drive."
(Eddy has since resigned to become the new chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of the Sandhills.)
Eastman smiles, remembering the look on Eddy's face when she presented her first collection of coats.
"I think I overwhelmed her the first year when she saw how many coats I brought," Eastman says, "but she was thrilled."
The second year, Eastman expanded her efforts to include her school's Key Club. She brought in hundreds more coats.
This year, the response was even greater, as she involved the Union Pines High School chapter of Key Club.
To date, Eastman has brought in more than a thousand articles of clothing since starting Coats for Comfort.
Eddy says she is amazed by the contribution.
"If you can imagine our conference room, full of coats, three times," she said.
Two other students in the area, Sierra Mello and Payton Thompson, also contributed their time and efforts this winter. The Southern Middle School eighth-graders are working toward their Silver Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts. They designed a collection project to benefit Life Care Pregnancy Center in Carthage.
"We thought it was a really cool organization," Mello says about the girls' visit to the center. "We planned to collect some items, but we couldn't do it on our own. We asked our school to help."
With the help of a few teachers and advisers, the girls decorated 28 boxes and put them in each of the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms. Each homeroom competed to collect the most items in their grade, with the promise of an ice cream party after the Christmas holiday break.
Mello and Payton collected more than 300 diapers, along with wipes, baby food supplies and clothing. Life Care Pregnancy Center Executive Director Suzanne Clendenin said donations are the life source of the Center's mission.
"It's through the efforts of organizations like these that we've been able to distribute more than 12,000 diapers this year," Clendenin says.
Life Care's clients "earn while they learn," earning items for their babies by working through prenatal and parenting curriculum. Mello and Thompson's donations helped restock depleted supplies.
Eddy says there are endless ways to get involved in the area. One youth group made birthday bags for children that included ingredients for a cake, candles, birthday plates, napkins and a toy. Several groups contribute toys to the Coalition's toy giveaway program. Two volunteers shop at the Food Bank for the Coalition each week.
Eastman says she is motivated by how much she has, and encourages people to adopt the same mindset. She plans to repeat her efforts again next year, with hopes to bring in even more.
"I always thought, well, I have so many coats and there are so many people in my community who don't even have one," Eastman says. "So if I can just spread what I have to others, then everyone else will be better off."
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