Church distributes coats

Published 10:33 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

On Saturday and Sunday, dozens of Suffolk Christian Church volunteers prepared for the church’s annual coat giveaway by arranging racks of men’s and women’s coats organized by sizes, along with scarves, mittens, sweaters and more.

Church member Beverly McGahee said exactly 1,000 coats had been counted before they opened their doors to those in need on Monday after a week of heavy snow.

“We took that as a sign,” McGahee said.

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The annual coat distribution was originally planned for Saturday as well, but that was canceled because of Winter Storm Grayson, McGahee said.

She said more than 62 households got winter clothes in just two hours.

“I appreciate it a whole lot,” said Suffolk resident Annie Banks, 51, who got coats, gloves and scarves for herself and her grandchildren. “It’s a blessing for me and my grandkids.”

Some grateful recipients gave cash donations. Others showed their gratitude in their own ways.

William Reid, 76, has been coming to the church for years to get coats for when he works in the fields of Cofield, N.C. He was so thankful this year that he brought sweet potatoes for the church pantry.

“I’m going to bring enough for everybody,” Reid said.

Volunteers walked with arrivals as they browsed clothing racks with coats of all shapes and sizes, each one cleaned and ready to wear.

The volunteers helped find the right sizes for men, women and children. Some came from Social Services, others the Salvation Army, and even more who simply heard of the giveaway by word of mouth.

This was the 28th year Suffolk Christian Church has organized a coat giveaway. The church partners with other local churches and organizations to collect year-round donations.

“We’re known as the ‘Coat Church,” McGahee said. “If people have coats, then they bring them to us.”

Irvin Salmon, 80, has helped with each coat giveaway since it started with McGahee’s adult Bible school class. He remembered their first year in the former Salvation Army building in downtown Suffolk, when they used stepladders and brooms to hang coats.

He and his wife, Claudia Salmon, were escorting folks on Monday as they looked for the right sizes.

“It’s helping someone get something they need,” he said.

Tracie Stockton, 45, came to the church giveaway from Boykins with her son, Justin Hawkins, 25, daughter, Sara Stockton, 25, and her 6-month-old granddaughter, Zendaya Gipson. The family lives together with Tracie Stockton’s husband, Frank Stockton Jr., and their 10-year-old son, Jabriel.

The family moved to the area in October after their Texas homes were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. They were not prepared for winter in Hampton Roads.

“It’s definitely a culture shock with all the snow,” Tracie Stockton said.

“I thought another hurricane was coming,” Hawkins joked.

The family grabbed coats, scarves and hats, which were bagged at a table by church volunteers. Tracie Stockton appreciated the community service, especially with her background as a minister for Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Houston.

“If more churches got involved like this, then there would be less people out there in the cold,” she said.

Suffolk Christian Church will partner with member Deb Munn’s upcoming winter clothes giveaway as a makeup date for the Saturday cancellation. The distribution will be from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 20 at 216 N. Main St.

For questions and requests, including any Suffolk school teachers with students in need of winter clothing, call 539-9182.