Woman aims to collect 1,000 coats for families in need before Oct. 11


Sun POST Newspapers


When Barb Bechard started collecting coats in 1999 to donate to families in need, she set a goal of giving 25 coats. The Fridley resident gave 150.

The next year she thought she could collect 200. She got 500.

Now, she makes it her goal each year to collect 1,000 coats for the Coats for Kids program through Brooklyn Park-based Pilgrim Cleaners.

“It’s just kind of become a mission for me,” she said. “I love doing it.”

Bechard gets them from family and friends who outgrow or no longer want their coats, but she also hunts garage sales and thrift stores for bargains.

Sometimes she’ll include her grandchildren in the search for good deals.

“It’s kind of nice to get the family involved,” she said. “That’s kind of neat, because it’s teaching the next generation to give back. … I think we all should be giving back in (our) own ways.”

It has become harder in recent years to reach her goal, Bechard said. She thinks people are keeping things longer since the recent recession. But that hasn’t stopped her from working hard to help, because she believes strongly in the Coats for Kids program.

Bechard has already collected more than three quarters of her target number this year.

“I am short about 200 right now, and I’ve got about another month to get the other 200,” she said. “I’m working hard, I’m trying to hit a lot of garage sales.”

This year, the Coats for Kids program’s overall goal is collecting 10,000 coats. The collection drive runs through Friday, Oct. 11.

Pilgrim Cleaners has collected more than 385,000 coats since it started the program in 1986. 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.

Pilgrim will clean the coats and give them to eight metro-area charities, which will distribute them to those in need.

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 jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com