Numbers never tell the whole story to Salvation Army Coat Drive volunteers.
People donated more than 3,000 items to last year’s Salvation Army Coat Drive in Portage, Nancy Schaper reported. That includes 308 women’s coats, 318 men’s coats and 428 children’s coats, 159 pairs of snow pants, 152 pairs of boats, 940 hats, 224 scarves and 609 pairs of mittens.
“The community is awesome,” said Schaper, coordinator of the 14th annual drive. “They understand the need.”
Volunteers started collecting coats and other items Oct. 1 and will keep doing so until Oct. 21. They’ll distribute items from 2 to 6 p.m., Oct. 26, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oct. 27, in Building 8 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in Portage.
Last year’s totals marked the most ever collected, Schaper said, and Portage is on pace to meet or exceed them this year.
Significant donations or contributions come from all over the Portage area including Cascade Mountain, Portage Public Library Children’s Department, Portage Police Department, TriEnda Penda, Pardeeville Area Shopper and Grande Cheese in Wyocena.
Nona’s Tailoring and Tuxes in Portage donates the coat racks and also patches up items that need attention; Portage Cleaners dry cleans the items, even though they really shouldn’t have to – “Please, please turn in clean items, if you can,” Schaper said to donors; a small group of anonymous women will once again knit more than 100 hats, mittens and scarves; and a group of about 20 volunteers help Schaper sort through everything.
Portage native Peri Mills is one of those volunteers — helping out for the past three years after she retired from the information technology department at Madison College-Truax, where she worked for 33 years.
“It’s wonderful seeing the smiles and excitement for this event on distribution day,” Mills said as she and Schaper sorted through snow pants at the fairgrounds Tuesday morning. “Nothing really surprises me anymore, but you’ll recognize the need when you see complete families coming in here – families of five, six and eight.”
“They’re lined up out the door,” Schaper said.
“On both days,” Mills said.
The drive accepts gently used and clean winter coats, sized infant to adult, as well as snow boots and snow pants of all sizes. Workable buttons, zippers and snaps are appreciated, especially for kids items. Volunteers emphasize the need for children’s jackets, sizes 7 to 16.
“That’s always what we need the most,” Schaper said of the school-age coats.
Items may be dropped off 24/7 at Portage Police Department. During business hours items may be dropped off at Portage Cleaners, the library and many local churches. The sooner people donate, the better, since volunteers will need to sort through the items.
“I know the need is as much as ever because I’ve gotten numerous phone calls already from people needing things or wanting to donate,” Schaper said.
“Everybody seems to recognize the need and wants to help.”