The only way to survive a Minnesota winter …

By Peggy Bakken

Sun Newspapers


Today is March 27. May I dare suggest that Wicked Winter 2013-14 is now in our rear-view mirror?

We survived all those days where the temperatures stayed below zero. We made it through miserable commutes and shoveled tons of snow off our driveways. Our kids celebrated many snow days.

We received significant snowfall on Tuesday, Dec. 2. That snow is still visible in my backyard today. Yes, we’ve seen shrinkage, but I still see white, not green, when I study my lawn.

I survived Wicked Winter 2013-14 because I have a down parka. Like most Minnesotans, I have my light jacket, my medium jacket, my heavy jacket, my winter coat and my dress coat – and a hoodie, of course.

But I also have a down parka – deep red, rather beat-up looking – but solid and very warm. Add a quality pair of gloves and a scarf, and there it is – survival.

Some winters, I pull out my parka for a few days. During Wicked Winter 2013-14, I think I wore my parka for three full months.

So, I ask the question: How could anyone have made it through Wicked Winter 2013-14 without a really good coat?

Many of our friends and neighbors do not have the means to buy new coats every year. Many children are sent to the school bus without the proper weight coat for sub-zero temperatures. Kids grow so fast, and it’s challenging for many families to provide children every season with quality coats that fit properly.

Pilgrim Dry Cleaners, a Brooklyn Park-based business led by president Bonnie Engler, took that issue to heart in 1986, when her family-owned company started its “Coats for Kids” campaign. Since then, Pilgrim has collected, cleaned and donated 360,000 coats to metro area residents.

Engler, her family and staff were honored for that accomplishment on March 13, when her business received the “Quality of Life” award from the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

I had the pleasure of being there that day, along with our regional general manager, Mark Weber. Sun Newspapers has been one of the media sponsors for the Coats for Kids drive for many years now. It has been a very rewarding partnership. We help get the word out every October for the annual coat collection drive. Area residents drop off quality, gently used coats at the many drop-off points. Pilgrim in turns distributes the coats to those in need throughout the metro. I believe that is the definition of “Win-Win-Win.”

We have also worked with Pilgrim on its summer project, “Scouting for Uniforms.” Pilgrim Dry Cleaners collects donated Scout uniforms, cleans them and then works with the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America to distribute the uniforms.

Pilgrim has added a third collection drive, “Costumes for Kids,” providing costumes for children every Halloween season.

We are proud to be associated with Pilgrim and its projects. Congratulations to Bonnie Engler and her team for this well-deserved honor.

I am packing away my parka for a few months. This fall, when the Coats for Kids drive begins, I’ll be sure to donate a coat or two.

The only way to survive a Minnesota winter is with a good, warm coat. Thanks to Pilgrim Dry Cleaners for seeing that thousands of my neighbors and friends will be ready when winter comes again.


Contact Sun Newspapers Executive Editor Peggy Bakken at [email protected]