A family of seven walked into the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Vancouver all looking for winter coats earlier this week. On a busy day, the organization sees up to 130 families seeking clothing or other resources.
“Many families are just two or three,” said Katrina Golder, a St. Vincent de Paul volunteer and board member. “And we have larger families, too, like seven, nine people.”
Now, the organization has a slew of clothing options for those families in need.
A coat drive organized Tuesday by Friends of the Carpenter gave away about 300 new or gently used men’s, women’s and children’s coats to various nonprofit organizations, which will distribute them to their homeless and low-income clients.
“This is wonderful because we’re really low on men’s coats,” Golder said. “We have a few set aside for the homeless, but for people that aren’t homeless, they still have needs. So they come in looking for coats, and we don’t really have them.”
Golder selected coats from three racks set up in the Friends of the Carpenter Friendship Center, a day shelter where people go for woodworking activities, food, showers and laundry. The center’s space heaters and tables create a welcoming space for homeless and low-income people to chat while working on arts and crafts together.
The coat drive has been held for about 20 years through a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. When the Boy Scouts collect and recycle Christmas trees after the holidays, they ask households to donate winter coats and warm clothing.
Volunteers from Umpqua Bank sorted the hundreds of coats brought by the Boy Scouts last weekend. Nonprofit organizations, including St. Vincent de Paul, Share, FISH of Vancouver, Outsiders Inn, Council for the Homeless, Open House Ministries, Family Promise and others, were invited to take about 25 coats each.
After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first time Friends of the Carpenter has hosted the event since 2019. As the event gathers steam again, the pickings were a bit slimmer than normal.
“There are fewer coats this year than there have been historically. It’s averaged about 900 to 1,200,” said Friends of the Carpenter Executive Director Tod Thayer. “But we still got about 300 jackets this year. And I think that’s great, considering the fact that there are still a lot of people that aren’t opening their doors due to COVID.”
James Fitzgerald, executive director of FISH of Vancouver, went to the event in search of men’s coats. FISH is entirely dependent on donations, and it doesn’t get many coats, according to Fitzgerald.
“We have 50 to 75 people living outside that come to us every day,” he said, adding that about 75 percent of clients are men. “So to be able to offer some coats is a welcome thing.”
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