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‘Keeping Residents Warm’

Local business, organizations push coat-drive initiative

Photo by Jeylin White
Willie Simpson, C.E.O. of Crossroads Youth Development Center, a non-profit organization in Jonesboro, holds a snow suit for a child. Simpson has joined the nationwide “One Warm Coat” initiative, in partnership with Burlington Coat Factory stores across the country.

Photo by Jeylin White Willie Simpson, C.E.O. of Crossroads Youth Development Center, a non-profit organization in Jonesboro, holds a snow suit for a child. Simpson has joined the nationwide “One Warm Coat” initiative, in partnership with Burlington Coat Factory stores across the country.

Recently, temperatures have dropped suddenly, from the sunny 60s, to the frigid 30s in Clayton County.

For some, during those shiveringly cold days, a lack of the financial means to purchase a good coat in order to stay warm, is a real concern for many who see it as their calling –– and/or their job –– to help the needy in the community.

Pastor Willie M. Simpson, the C.E.O. of Crossroads Comprehensive Youth Development Center, a non-profit organization in Jonesboro, recently shared a story of a Forest Park resident, who called her organization, about three children she saw walking outside last week in freezing-cold weather –– without coats.

“The economy is bad, and people need help,” said Simpson, which is why, for the third straight year, her organization –– which provides like-skills, abstinence and other programs to help young people avoid risky behaviors and make good decisions about their lives –– has gotten involved in the national movement known as “One Warm Coat.”

The warm-coat initiative grew out of a San Francisco, Calif.-based organization –– One Warm Coat –– that saw the need, and began a coat drive during the Thanksgiving holidays in 1992, according to the organization’s web site. Community members donated their gently worn coats, and volunteers sorted through them, and gave the coats to those in their local communities who needed them. Since then, the initiative has spread across the United States.

“[Three years ago], I saw the advertisement online, and said to myself, we could use some coats in this community,” said Simpson. In order to register with the One Warm Coat organization and join the initiative, she said, her group had be registered as a 501-C3, non-profit organization.

By the time she discovered that, however, the deadline to register for that year had already passed, she said. But all was not lost.

Burlington Coat Factory stores across the country, and ABC TV’s “Good Morning America,” also were impressed with the One Warm Coat movement, and joined the effort. “Good Morning America’s” reach helped to promote it widely.

The local Burlington store, unknown to Simpson at the time, was already involved. Traci Moore, assistant manager at the Burlington store in Morrow, said this is her store’s fifth year of participating in the effort. The nationwide goal for this year, she said, is to collect and giveaway one million coats. She said the effort is 58,000 coats away from reaching that goal.

“At our store, we are averaging about 40 to 50 [coat donations] a week,” said Moore. The store, she said, has given away truckloads of coats to several organizations, churches and agencies in the local community, since the coat drive kicked off earlier this month.

Simpson and her Crossroads Center, is one of the organizations that has benefited from Burlington’s efforts. Simpson said her group has received 16 boxes filled with coats for men, women, and children. They came from Burlington’s stores in Morrow and Cobb County, she said.

Once she went through all of the boxes and sorted the coats, she said she counted more than 900. Simpson said she was surprised, and pleased, with the quality of coats and jackets she received.

“Some of these coats were barely worn,” she said. “We got leather coats you can’t even find at the Goodwill stores.”

Burlington’s Moore said the stores’ efforts were boosted by a special promotion for customers: Community members, who donate coats, receive a 10 percent discount on the purchase of a new coat at any Burlington Coat Factory store.

She said the One Warm Coat initiative has been extended until Feb. 25. “The drive is going so well, this year, it was extended for two additional weeks,” she said.

Simpson said Crossroads will be giving away coats until they are all gone. For those in need of a good, warm coat for the winter, Crossroads Comprehensive Youth Development Center is located at 737 Veterans Parkway, Suite 600, in Jonesboro. The phone number is (770) 756-9100.