The 28th annual Coat Drive for Kids is underway, with donations accepted until November 30.
Started in 1996 by Debra Buchanan, the Horsepasture District Supervisor on the Henry County Board of Supervisors, the drive has distributed more than 10,000 coats throughout its history.
Last year, Buchanan estimated over 500 coats were given to children and people in need.
“Children cannot help their situation; they just know they’re cold. If we can help a child by keeping them warm, if we can make that difference in a child’s life, that’s what’s important,” she said.
Buchanan said she started collecting coats for the drive in her home.
“I would advertise the fact that I was collecting used coats, and I would bring them into the house. Those that needed washing, which most of them did, I would go down to the laundromat and wash them on my dime,” she said.
Buchanan would then distribute the coats to schools in Henry County.
Eventually, Buchanan said she had to set up clothes racks in a spare room of her house. She moved it out to her carport as the drive got bigger.
“Then from there, I moved it out to the rescue squad and opened it up to people that wanted to come in and needed a coat,” she said. “Particularly the adults, because a lot of times the coats that are given were more suitable for an adult than they are for a child. So, what we did was we made sure that all those coats were utilized if they were in a condition where they could be.”
Over the years, Buchanan said she developed a close relationship with Avery Mills, of One-Hour Martinizing, who was willing to clean any of the coats that needed cleaning.
“So, he’s been on board with me for many, many years cleaning coats and we partnered with the Salvation Army,” Buchanan said. All of the gently used coats donated to the drive were cleaned before they were given to children, “but sometimes, somebody would give a new coat and we wouldn’t have to clean it.”
Any coats that were not suitable for children were taken to the Salvation Army “to be distributed to people that needed one,” Buchanan said, adding people were not charged for those coats.
Buchanan said different organizations, including King’s Grant and many local churches, help with the drive by collecting or purchasing coats.
“It’s through the generosity of people in the community” that the project has grown and now is a mainstay, Buchanan said. “It’s a partnership with the people in the community, and it’s worked very well because other organizations will put a box out to collect coats for the Coat Drive for Kids.”
The deadline to donate coats is Thursday, November 30.
“We want to make sure we can get the coats in, and those that need to be dry cleaned will be dry cleaned, and we can give those coats out before the children leave for Christmas break,” she said, adding she doesn’t accept money to purchase coats for the drive.
New or “gently used” coats can be dropped off at Hollywood Cinema or One-Hour Martinizing on Rives Road. For more information, call Buchanan at (276) 358-1463.