Coat Drive Reflections

As some of you know, I was pretty busy this week. I’m an operations board member for Common Ground, and for the past three days, we partnered with Action News 5, Memphis’ local NBC affiliate station, to host a coat drive.

It all started when it got cold outside. And when I say cold, I mean IT WAS SEVEN DEGREES. Shelby County Schools cancelled classes on Tuesday because of the dangerously low temps, and when people who are blessed enough to have never gone without a coat took to facebook to question the decision, my friend wrote a blog post explaining it to them. The fact of the matter is that too many kids in Memphis don’t have the proper winter apparel (aka a nice, warm coat) to safely walk to school or wait at a bus stop in the extreme cold.

You can read that friend’s account of the story here, but basically, it led to discussions between several people who ended up making the decision to take on the coat drive project. We were excited to work with the crew from AN5, and thanks to their hard work and a big push on social media from our extended networks and their networks and even theirs, we pulled it off quickly and successfully.

If you saw my facebook posts, you’ve probably seen this video of my interview, and you know that we collected over 480 coats, over 200 accessory items (hats, scarves, gloves, etc.) and over $4,000. That’s pretty amazing when you consider that it came together in a couple of hours, and we collected donations for the next three days.

All of this is old news. What I want to tell you about is the part that really can’t be shown on camera that well.

This week, I saw so much love. I saw people carrying bags stuffed with things they cleaned out of their own closets they wanted to donate because they wanted the items to be of use to people who needed them. I saw people driving from all over to bring coats to kids. I saw retired teachers and military officers and nurses and meteorologists and parents (and probably at least one of everything else) taking the time to make a trip out in the rain to go shopping to buy winter apparel for children they don’t know. I saw donations roll in first from the Memphis area, then from the region and soon from all over the country. I saw a note left by an online donor from Florida that said she had saved money not having to buy a coat this year (because it’s never seven degrees there), and she wanted to donate the amount so that a kid could receive a coat, but she donated enough money to buy four. 

This coat drive was the most incredible thing. Our donor pool and our lovely volunteer pool (thank y’all, by the way!) were both so diverse that it amazed me. The response from the community blew my mind. Seeing people give so freely and cheerfully is an indescribable experience.

I saw God’s love and favor firsthand this week. He helped us plan. He helped us get the word out and collect and push through. It was his plan all along that the blog post be written and that it light a fire. But this experience might have been a gift just for me.

I’m so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all. My friend thanked everyone but herself in the blog post I linked to previously, and I want to take an opportunity to do just that.

Wendi Thomas – thank you for stating the truth, for writing that blog post, for being brave and standing up for these kids, for taking on this project for the organization, for volunteering and helping me find other potential volunteers and for being the backbone that held the entire project together. I appreciate your hard work, sacrifice and can-do attitude.

We didn’t change the world this week, but we certainly made a difference in these kids’ worlds. What more could I ever ask for?

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