Coat drive makes local nonprofits more effective

Collection runs through Oct. 11


Sun POST Newspapers


Charities that partner with Pilgrim Cleaners’ Coats for Kids drive say it would be difficult to meet the need for winter coats without the program.

Since 1986, the Brooklyn Park-based dry cleaning company has collected and donated new and gently used winter coats for children in need. It cleans the coats before delivering them to eight nonprofits in the area for distribution.

Last year the St. Louis Park Emergency Program, also known as STEP, gave out about 1,000 coats to those in need, according to Allison Johnson, a social worker with the organization.

“We definitely wouldn’t have nearly that number without that partnership,” Johnson said.

The more coats are available, the more lives STEP and other charities can touch.

Johnson finds it rewarding to watch the children come pick out coats and accessories.

“Last year, one child was super-excited to get Spider-Man gloves,” she said. “There was another little girl that found a hat and scarf that matched her jacket … and she was pretty thrilled.”

This year, STEP will distribute the coats it gets 3-6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, in its building at 6812 W. Lake St., St. Louis Park.

The Brooklyn Center-based Community Emergency Assistance Program, also known as CEAP, is another charity that distributes coats from the drive.

According to CEAP Family Services Supervisor Patrick Morley, the organization gives away the coats through its clothing closet, which is seeing an increasing need among immigrants who perhaps have never needed a winter coat before.

“Unfortunately, there is no shortage of demand,” he said. “These are critical … services, and so community partnerships are essential. … I would defy any Minnesotan to say that a winter coat in the last week of January, first week of February is not a basic need.”

Morley said CEAP doesn’t put all the coats out at once. Instead, it tries to make a steady stream of coats available, because there’s typically a spike in demand when the coldest weather comes in January or February. He said stretching the time period of distribution is possible because of the large number of coats CEAP gets from Pilgrim. Last year, Morley said, CEAP received about 2,000 coats and “gave every last single one of them away.”

“The demand is big, but the response (to the need) is big,” he said.

Bonnie Engler, president of Pilgrim Cleaners, said it’s been that way since her father started the program 27 years ago. Since then, Pilgrim has collected and cleaned more than 385,000 coats.

“People are very generous,” Engler said. “It’s wonderful to see.”

She said working with existing charities ensures the coats get to those who need them.

“They’re very well established charities, and every year (they’re) so thankful for every coat that we give them,” she said. “They’re very recognizable (organizations) and have very good reputations out in the community.”

This year’s goal is collecting 10,000 coats, and the collection drive runs through Friday, Oct. 11.

Sun Newspapers, WCCO Radio, KARE 11 and Subway are sponsors.

Anyone who wants to donate a gently used coat can take it to any of the 25 Pilgrim Cleaners locations or the Sun Newspapers offices in Eden Prairie and Osseo. The program accepts coats for children and adults. Go online to find the location nearest you.

Community members can also send monetary gifts to the Coats for Kids fund, c/o Pilgrim Cleaners, 3217 85th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park 55443. One hundred percent of donations will go toward purchasing new children’s coats.

Schools are encouraged to organize their own coat drives. The school that collects the most will win a Subway Party and a plaque for the school.



Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]