A Warm Coat

Non-Profit Wade's World

            Pearl River      Every once in a while, I stumble onto something that surprises.  It’s not an organization that is solving some huge injustice exactly, or even trying to make social change, much less a policy that will impact people, but still it’s making a difference when it matters in its own way, even if not changing the world.  That’s the way I felt recently when talking to Beth Amadio on Wade’s World about the national program she runs called One Warm Coat.  I was led to her by a blurb about using MLK Day’s theme of a National Day of Service to support something about warm coats.  I didn’t get the connection, and in many ways, there wasn’t one, at least not directly, but it was another smart move by this small band of do-gooders driving the organization.

The clearest link between the two is the fact that MLK Day always hits us in the hardest part of January’s winter around the country, and that’s when having a warm coat matters the most.  One Warm Coat is that rare organization where the name pretty much says it all.  They want you to donate a warm coat, and they are set up to give those coats to people who need them.  Maybe that sounds simple and a little Junior League-like, but talking to Amadio you get the notion that this is the little engine that could and a far-reaching, serious operation.

The organization is over 20 years old, though I’m sure I’m not the only one who had never heard of it.  Amadio works out of Columbia, South Carolina.  She had been running a huge second harvest operation in Silicon Valley before being recruited a couple of years ago.  Her tiny staff of less than a half-dozen is also scattered around the country and working remotely, yet they coordinate up to 5000 “gently used” coat drives, as she called them, that yield more than a half-million coats that they then distribute.  The distribution is mainly through a network of local nonprofits that get them where they are needed to the homeless and these days to the influx of migrants as well.  Their website lets you identify where they have drives and connects anyone interested to the nonprofit partner, the bulk of which are appropriately in the colder states around the country, when I looked for who might be around New Orleans for example.

Amadio and her crew don’t just leave it all of a volunteer network.  They also hustle big clothing companies both for donations to support their work, but also for direct donations of seconds and unsold coats, including J Crew, Duluth, and Todd Synder, which she had to explain to me was a higher end men’s clothing operation.  Their “zero waste” program reaches out to many of these operations.  They make a case that for every one dollar in direct donations they get, they can deliver one coat.  How smart is that?

This is a razor sharp and effective operation that’s about its business and doing the job it is meant to do.  There is a connection to Martin Luther King, Jr. in that AmeriCorps volunteers with the King Center also run a drive.  No fake news with this outfit, that’s for sure.  Now, tell me who among us doesn’t have an old coat or two, maybe from back in the day, hanging around the closet or up in the attic that could keep a brother or sister warm?  I’ll answer that:  all of us!  That’s what One Warm Coat is all about.