Church gives away 300 coats

Published 8:52 pm Saturday, January 15, 2011

A mother and daughter select coats for themselves and three other children at Suffolk Christian Church’s annual coat donation event. The event serves local children and adults.

Eddie doesn’t attend Suffolk Christian Church, but he was there Saturday wearing a smile, a ball cap and a coat he got at last year’s coat distribution.

Eddie is 58 years old and disabled. He is unable to work to pay for items that many people take for granted — like coats. This is Eddie’s second year benefiting from the annual Suffolk Christian Church coat distribution.

“I like coming here. They treat me real good,” Eddie said. “It helps me a lot. I really appreciate it.”

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Suffolk Christian Church gave away more than 300 coats for free on Saturday to people of all ages who needed them.

Zena, mother of two, found out about the coat distribution through word of mouth. She came to find coats for her 8-year-old daughter and her 10-year-old son.

“Kids are rough on coats,” she said. “And finances don’t allow me to buy new coats.”

“My son put a hole in his coat at school,” she added. “Just when I was about to take money away from a bill to buy a new coat, I heard about the coat drive.”

Zena also found a coat for herself at the event.

“People have donated some really nice things,” she said. “It’s a blessing in disguise.”

Helen found out about the coat drive through the Salvation Army. “This winter season has been very cold with lots of snow thus far,” Helen said. “This will help me to keep warm and also will help my grandchildren keep warm going out to school.”

“We don’t want anybody to be cold,” said Beverly McGahee, church member and volunteer. She’s been assisting with the coat drive for several years.

“This is very much a community effort,” she said. “It happens because everyone pitches in and makes it happen.”

The church depends on area churches and schools for coat donations. It also uses money from church fundraisers and donations by church members and people in the community to purchase additional coats.

Suffolk Christian Church partners with the Salvation Army, which helps spread the word, and with Tom Williams of Quality Cleaners, who helped clean used coats.

The church began the coat distribution 21 years ago, around the time that WAVY-TV10 began its coat drive. McGahee explained that at that time, Suffolk residents could get coats through WAVY’s program, but they had to drive to Norfolk to get them.

The church decided there should be an event in Suffolk.

The program began as “Coats for Kids,” but according to McGahee, “Every adult that came in needed a coat too. We give lots more to adults now.”

Church member and first-year coat donation volunteer Tracy Gardner said the program especially makes a difference this year.

“It’s extra cold this year,” she said. “It struck a cord with me because I couldn’t imagine not having a coat or anything to keep me warm. It makes me feel good to know they are going home to a little boy or girl.”