Most of us have too many coats or jackets. With each season, the temptation to get a newer, more fashionable one increases, so we head to the store and end up collecting more coats than we will ever possibly wear. Sherri Wood took notice of this and set out to start a movement to collect coats and distribute them to people in need. This movement led to the founding of One Warm Coat, which has collected and donated nearly 3 million coats since 1992.
We recently spoke with Sherri about this achievement, what a coat means to someone, and what her big dream for the world is:
CPC: How does One Warm Coat see a coat as much more than a piece of fabric? What does a coat do for the recipient? Wood: We might say that a good warm coat provides three different and vital kinds of “warmth.”
- People who receive coats speak of the warmth of belonging in their communities. Coat recipients tell us that these coats are proof that someone cares.
- A decent coat provides dignity – for many it’s the first (and only) impression they have of people during the winter months.
- And then, of course, warm coats provide vital protection from the cold so that you can make that commute to work or school, or so that a child can go out and play.
CPC: You just collected 1 million coats with your national drive. What does that feel like? Wood: Our hearts are full of warmth and appreciation for the thousands and thousands of people who took time to look in their closets and know they could make a difference in their community.
CPC: How does One Warm Coat make it easy for anyone to organize a coat drive? Wood: Well, this is where we put to use as much of today’s technology as possible. From the very beginning, we knew that convenient, easy to understand tools would make all the difference for our coat drive Organizers. Our website offers free tools and resources for creating and holding a coat drive, things like sample press releases, flyers, photo release forms, tax receipts. Within a few clicks, Organizers can register their coat drives in our system and download all the items they need to get set up. We have a Coat Drive Locator so that people who wish to donate a coat can find a drive in their community. Last year we supported over 3,000 coat drives across the country!
CPC: Can you share a story that shows how One Warm Coat is making a difference? Wood: As you can only imagine, the stories we hear are heartwarming. Last year we heard from a woman in Florida who created a coat drive at her daughter’s school and at a local restaurant. They received over 100 coats, many brand new. I pass along her message:
“It took my breath away every time I went to the box and saw coats overflowing out of the box, my heart would be filled with joy. There are no words to describe how happy that would make me, because I knew the more coats I collected the more people I would be able to help! What a great experience for my little six-year-old daughter. I loved the way this whole experience bonded us together, one we will never forget! I would like to thank your organization for helping me along the way!”
CPC: Now that it's getting warmer, how can people get involved with what you're doing? Wood: We think that “spring cleaning” is almost an ideal time for people to donate warm coats! And so do some of our friends. People often move during the summer, and moving day is a perfect day to donate coats. While the coat drive “business” slows down during the warmer months, we do have individuals who hold coat drives throughout the summer, in honor of loved ones or special events. We love to see the children’s birthday party coat drives, for example. And there’s a young girl back East who always enters a One Warm Coat float in summertime parades. And then there’s always “back to school” shopping time. We are very busy from September through March, so when the warmer months are upon it, it’s a great time to incubate ideas and listen to our community.
CPC: What's your big dream for the world? Wood: Our dream is simple: No one should go cold in winter. We are dedicated to showing people how easy it is to take action in their own communities to solve this problem.