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Suzie Stapleton was helping a man who had come to the Assumption Outreach Center wearing a thin jacket despite the brisk cold outside. He asked if she might have a coat that would fit him.
“I said, ‘I’ll try and see if I can find one for you,’ ” she recalled.
A volunteer who brought day-old bread and rolls from Panera Bread to the center once a week asked what the man needed.
“I said, ‘He needs a coat,’ ” Ms. Stapleton, administrator at the center at the former St. Mary’s Church on Page Street, said. “And this man, he had on this beautiful leather jacket, he took his jacket off and he said, ‘Here. Give him this.’ I could not believe it. The coat had to have cost a couple hundred bucks. You talk about charity.”
As winter sets in and the holiday season approaches, churches, homeless shelters, organizations, and individuals across the area are collecting new and gently used coats and other warm clothing to help meet that most basic of needs among those in the most need.
Coats, Ms. Stapleton said, are “another basic necessity of life that we all just take for granted sometimes, like food and toiletries.”
The Rev. Dan Rogers, president and chief executive officer of Cherry Street Mission Ministries, said countless men and women come to their shelters without coats and warm clothes. They are given what they need from the clothing donated from the community.
“Homelessness is a very abnormal time in a person’s life, and what Cherry Street and what our community tries to do on a daily basis is put some normalcy into an abnormal time in a person’s life, so giving someone a coat is an enormously thoughtful thing to do,” Mr. Rogers said, adding, “It’s tough to talk about life transformation with someone when they’re shivering.”
Cherry Street Mission Ministries, which serves an average of 280 men and women a night, always is in need of clothing, especially items “for extremities,” Mr. Rogers said. “Gloves, mittens, socks, scarves, something to cover ears, skullcaps, and of course a coat is really important. Think about long johns.”
The Old Newsboys Goodfellow Association has been making sure children in Toledo have coats and shoes for more than 75 years. Hundreds of volunteers will take to the streets of Toledo and surrounding communities Friday selling the group’s annual newspaper in exchange for donations.
Past President Greg Loeb said they hope to raise $200,000 — money that will go directly to buying shoes and coats for children in need, providing emergency food baskets, and awarding college scholarships for needy and deserving high school graduates.
Last year, the Old Newsboys collected $202,389.36. John Mattimore, this year’s paper drive chairman, said donors can rest assured that every dollar and cent will be counted and put to good use.
“We are a 100 percent volunteer organization,” he said. “We have volunteers who are on the street collecting money on Dec. 7, then we have all the board and officers who are all donating their time 100 percent.”
Whenever a schoolteacher or principal, a police officer or firefighter comes across a child in need of shoes or a coat, they give the child a voucher from the Old Newsboys redeemable at The Andersons at Monroe Street and Talmadge Road.
“The Andersons has been a dream partner to work with because they give [the merchandise] to us at their costs,” Mr. Mattimore said.
The Old Newsboys will be out from dawn to dusk. Monetary donations also may be mailed to the organization.
As churches and schools, restaurants and businesses put out coat collection boxes and angel trees, it’s clear that helping to clothe the needy is a lesson that can’t be taught too early in life.
Paula Welsh, manager of Love ’n’ Learn Educational Child Care center on Secor Road, said children have been bringing in hats, mittens, gloves, and other items to place on the day care center’s Christmas tree.
“When we take the children outside, they have to have hats and gloves on, and we explain to them that some kids don’t have any,” Ms. Welsh said. “We let them know that they’re going to children who are just like them who don’t have hats and gloves.”
The items will be donated to Helping Hands of St. Louis, which runs a soup kitchen and clothing center in East Toledo. Last month, Helping Hands gave away nearly 800 winter coats that had been donated, just about cleaning out its supply, said Sue Shrewsbery, administrative assistant at Helping Hands.
“We can always use coats, especially for kids,” she said. “We never seem to have enough kids’ coats, also men’s coats, especially XL and 2XL. Blankets are another big item that we can never seem to keep stocked. Men’s gloves too — we never can seem to keep those stocked.”
The need, providers say, just keeps growing.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129