Monday, February 22, 2016

Coat drive a growing ministry

Top photo: Community generosity is a vital part of the Winter Coat and Outer Wear Drive held at Elm Park UMC, Scranton. Pictured are members of the Scranton chapter of UNICO National, an Italian American Service Organization, who brought in donated coats.

By Karen Sadowski

Elm Park Church in Scranton, through its Mission Team, completed its seventh annual coat and other winter outer-wear drive and distribution this past November, distributing 568 coats and 1,402 additional items (hats, scarves, gloves, mittens, shoes, boots, and more) in just three days. Some hats and scarves went to the Red Bird Mission, others were given to EOTC’s Parents as Teachers program by the youth group as random acts of kindness. Remaining coats were delivered to other local helping agencies for further distribution.

The annual event began as a “coats only” drive seven years ago when Jeanne Gordon, retired director of the local Girl Scout Council and chair of Elm Park’s Mission and Outreach Work Area, saw a need in the Scranton area for those who came to Elm Park’s Breadbasket (food ministry) inadequately dressed for winter. Gordon, Diana Powell, and friends went to work and started collecting coats. The event has grown and evolved to include many other warming items.

Bottom photo: Volunteers are another vital part of this ministry effort. After coats and other winter wear have been collected, they are sorted by size and type, and arranged neatly on tables and racks, some of which were built by the volunteers.
The generosity of the community is overwhelming. Elm Park receives bags and bags of warm clothing from other churches, friends, neighbors, relatives, and total strangers who discover our need through various print and media formats. In 2014 Eagle Scout Kevin Sompel personally collected one hundred coats for us to distribute for his Eagle Scout project. The connectedness for a cause is infectious and astounding.

Each new year starts with a twinge of doubt, and three questions: “Does anyone out there still have coats to give?” “Will there be enough help carrying, sorting, sizing, and displaying everything?” and most importantly, “How will we make sure we reach the people we can help?” Each year we realize the worry is unfounded. New sources of goods arise, volunteers sprout up, and the smiles and words of gratitude from the homeless, ill, and hurting assure us that God provides and works out the details.

One hundred ninety-five volunteer hours were recorded for the project, with many, many more hours “behind-the-scenes” in construction of display racks, communications, collection of items, and more.

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