Monday, April 8, 2013

A Warmer Washington

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It all started with a simple question:

What if everyone who had a coat to spare gave it to someone who couldn’t afford one?

The answer we got was a warm one – literally – with over 7,000 coats collected and distributed at our Joseph’s Closet. Seven thousand coats is a lot, but the number that really makes us smile is 7,000 children, men and women whose winter got a lot warmer, despite financial hardships in their family.

The doors of Joseph’s Closets opened weekly from November through February, and delivered coats directly to the shelters and programs where they were most needed. “It was overwhelming at times,” said Jackie Ogg, director of Catholic Charities’ Outreach. “People were lined up outside. It really made you realize the incredible need in the community.”

The effort depended on incredible volunteer leadership at individual parishes, schools, and community groups – 54 in all. They collected coats. They counted and sorted the donations. They even served as “personal shoppers” for the thousands of clients who came for a coat.  Here are just a few highlights from their efforts:

One client was so grateful for the coats she was able to receive for herself and her family that she crocheted dozens of scarves and hats, which volunteers were able to distribute along with the coats at Joseph’s Closet.

St. Patrick’s in Rockville was eager to help, but collecting coats was a challenge as their parish underwent major renovations. Their creative solution? Stuff the coats – 600 in all! – into two vans, easy for delivery to a distribution site.

Collaboration among St. Mary of the Mills, St. Vincent Pallotti High School, and the Boy Scouts helped collect over 500 coats.

The youth group at St. Francis Xavier (headquarters for Joseph’s Closet) volunteered to sort, hang, and bag coats for delivery to Catholic Charities homeless shelters. Other student groups hailed from Georgetown Prep, Visitation, Mater Dei, and St. John’s College High School.
A volunteer slips a note into a coat pocket to be discovered later
by the coat's new owner.

Olympic gold medalist Katie Ladecky and her teammates on the Stone Ridge swim team held a poolside coat drive, with over 70 coats collected. Stone Ridge Brownies also made hundreds of cheery notes to place in coat pockets.

And those who could afford to made a small donation for their coat. This money was used to purchase coats in special sizes for others in need.

Planning is already underway for next year, with hopes of new distribution sites in Maryland counties. Find out more ways you can get involved in our work in the coming months. 

Special Opportunity for High School Students: Catholic Charities' annual Youth Service Day returns on Saturday, April 13. Don't miss this great opportunity to serve your community with friends (new and old) from all across our archdiocese. After working hands-on at Catholic Charities programs, enjoy a reflection and after-party.