Keeping Warm from Head to Toe
The holidays may be over, but the good will and spirit of sharing doesn’t have to stop. In fact, the winter weather continues for at least a couple of months and we have far too many neighbors and residents in our cities spending frigid nights outside, with no shelter. If you were overcome by activities over the holidays, maybe now, in the new year, you’ll have a chance to help those in need. Here are some organizations that work year round, collecting warm coats, shoes, and blankets. Hopefully you will be moved and encouraged by their stories to help those in your own community who are in need.
A “bag of love” filled with a handmade blanket, a stuffed animal, and a few of life’s necessities give a child a sense of security in uncertain times. Top-rated by GreatNonprofits in 2014, Bags of Love, based in Eugene, OR, has distributed over 5,000 bags to children in crisis since 2008. As one volunteer states: “…each person plays an important role in making Bags of Love reach as many children in our community as possible, whether it is sewing bags and quilts, filling bags or delivering bags, serving on the Board, or helping with fundraising events.”
In partnership with firefighters, Rotary and other civic clubs, local
businesses, and community agencies, Operation Warm provides brand new winter coats to at-risk children who live in need. The gift of a brand new winter coat brings a child happiness and warmth and empowers her to attend school and play outside on cold winter days. Located in Chadds Ford, PA, Operation Warm helps kids across the US. “Working with this organization has opened my eyes not only to the problems facing the underprivileged in our country, but that there are thousands of volunteers and campaigns to do something to stop it.”
Cradles to Crayons (C2C) provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play. With locations in Boston and Philadelphia, C2C’s special “Gear Up for Winter “campaign supplies kids with the cold weather gear that they need to stay warm and safe from October through February. At the Boston office, kids over the age of five are welcome to volunteer. Kids and adults inspect, sort, and package all new and like-new donations into customized “KidPacks.” It’s never too early to start teaching your kids how to give back to their community.
From its headquarters in San Francisco, CA, One Warm Coat (top-rated by GreatNonprofits in 2014) works to provide any person in need with a warm coat, free of charge. What a simply stated, heartfelt goal! The organization began as a coat drive on Thanksgiving weekend in 1992. Last year over 600,000 people in need received a coat of their own and over 17,000 children received a new coat. When a recipient puts on a new coat, he or she is warmed physically and spiritually, by knowing that someone cared.
The staff and volunteers at My New Red Shoes believe that every child, regardless of his or her circumstances, should feel confident and positive about going to school. Ultimately, their goal is to provide new shoes and clothing to as many young people in need as possible. For those who give, My New Red Shoes cultivates compassion by connecting the broader community to its mission and the children they serve through volunteerism. As one volunteer said, “Growing out of a simple idea to offer homeless children the dignity they deserve on the first day of school, the organization impacts thousands of youth in our community.”
What good can a simple item, like a warm coat, do? According to Operation Warm, a recent survey sent to organizations that receive coats recorded these positive answers from respondents:
- 99% believed that the coat reduced the financial burden on their family.
- 75% believed the coats had a positive impact on school attendance.
- 100% believed the coats had a positive impact on their children’s emotions and self-esteem.
Survey respondents went on to state that the coats helped their children feel happy, smart, proud, or worthy.
It’s not too early to start a little spring cleaning. You might find a little used or gently worn coat that would be the perfect gift for someone in your community who could really use it. Check out your local churches, social service or local government agencies that serve your area. Chances are, someone can direct you to an organization that would gladly take a coat or two off your hands. Or check out the organizations described above; they all accept online donations. GreatNonprofits is another wonderful source of information about caring organizations in your neighborhood and across the globe.