A warm gesture

Published 6:50 pm Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jeraline Blunt looks for a coat for her neighbor at the 23rd annual Suffolk Christian Church coat giveaway on Saturday. “This is a blessing,” she said.

Church gives away donated coats

Jeraline Blunt sorted through the racks of coats at Suffolk Christian Church on Saturday morning, looking for something to help her neighbor keep warm this winter.

“I think this is a blessing,” she said as she selected a long tan coat. “Some people don’t have a coat and don’t have any money to buy a coat.”

The church started the morning with 750 coats and a line of people at the door. By 10:30 a.m., the supply of coats had dwindled to about 200.

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“Anybody that needs a coat, we’ll be happy to serve,” said Beverly McGahee, who volunteered during the giveaway. “It is the mission and vision of this church to be a beacon on Main Street.”

This was the 23rd annual coat giveaway for Suffolk Christian Church. The ministry got started because local television station WAVY-TV also does a coat giveaway, but the distribution locations are usually in other cities.

“We felt like, for Suffolk people, that would be a hardship for them (to get there),” McGahee said. “We said, ‘We can do that right here, just on a smaller scale.’”

The coats of all sizes and colors were collected from several churches, schools and individuals. Quality Cleaners donated its services for coats that needed to be cleaned. Church members also bought new coats to donate.

The coats were advertised through word-of-mouth, the newspaper and the Salvation Army, which made sure the people who received Christmas assistance there knew of the giveaway.

McGahee said visitors had been steady throughout the morning, despite unseasonably warm temperatures she feared would keep people away. Several years ago, the giveaway was moved from December to January because of a streak of warm Decembers.

“I do think it affected the crowd somewhat, but we had a good turnout,” she said.

The giveaway included some heartwarming moments, McGahee said. One woman who had taken the last coat in her size gave the coat off her back to another woman who was looking for one. Yet another woman brought back the coat she got at the giveaway last year for her son, who has since outgrown it and needed another one.

The leftover coats will be kept at the church for next year. Some people will continue to show up at the church throughout the winter requesting coats, McGahee said.

The giveaway also included a variety of donated hats, scarves, gloves and sweaters, and the leftovers will be donated to Goodwill, she added.