One Warm Coat's Coat Drive Program is the only national Coat Drive Program in the country. The national nonprofit works to provide a free, warm coat to any person in need and raises awareness of the vital need for warm coats. One Warm Coat supports individuals, groups, companies, and organizations across the country by providing the tools and resources needed to hold a successful coat drive. Distributing coats in the communities where they were collected, to any person in need, is the bedrock of One Warm Coat's program.
The nonprofit provides a six-step program to help volunteers of any age plan and implement a successful coat drive, according to Patti Zappa, Director of Development and Communications. When a coat drive is over, One Warm Coat provides a database of nonprofit agencies across the United States that are in need of coats. One Warm Coat's volunteer Coat Drive Ambassadors range in age from preschoolers to seniors and include major brands and corporations and every type of group in between.
Dublin resident Lori Olson, for example, hosted a One Warm Coat Drive with her business partner in November 2018. A portion of the coats collected were donated to Tri-Valley Haven, while the remaining coats and additional clothes were donated to victims of California's devastating Camp Fire. The following December Pleasanton resident Gretchen Kyle celebrated her 60th birthday by hosting a birthday One Warm Coat drive at a local restaurant. At the event more than 100 coats were collected and then distributed to Tri-Valley residents.
Since 1992, One Warm Coat has supported 34,856 coat drives throughout the US and has provided coats to 6,116,416 men, women, and children in need, according to Zappa. One Warm Coat works with more than 1,000 nonprofits and agencies across the US to distribute the coats that volunteer Ambassadors collect. To become a nonprofit partner, agencies must be in good standing with the IRS and must agree that all coats will be given away for free and without discrimination or obligation.
One Warm Coat was founded in San Francisco in 1992, and its greatest impact is still in the greater San Francisco area. In the last 27 years, hundreds of nonprofits in the region have benefitted from its Coat Drive Program and been able to distribute warm coats thanks to the generosity of volunteer Ambassadors.
One Warm Coat began when one person had one extra coat to give. In the fall of 1992, Lois Pavlow had an extra coat that she no longer wanted; rather than discard the coat, she wanted to give it to someone who really needed it, but did not know how to make that happen. Pavlow decided to hold a coat drive and, with the support of her local Macy's, found a location. For the next nine years, Lois and the San Francisco Macy's in Union Square organized a coat drive on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving. What had started with one coat had grown into a sizable coat drive that received local media coverage.
Nine years later, while in her car, Sherri Wood heard a radio announcer describe a woman rushing to get to the coat drive before it ended. The woman had taken a city bus to Union Square while holding 10 gently worn coats. The story made Wood wonder why there was only one coat drive, why it lasted for three days only, and why everyone could not hold coat drives. Six months later, Wood approached Pavlow with her idea to create a coat drive program that anyone and everyone could enact, and the One Warm Coat known today was born.
One Warm Coat Day is observed annually on October 3 but "coat drives can be held at any time of year," says Zappa. "Most people hold them between September and February." Not everyone can host a coat drive but anyone can support One Warm Coat through donations, notes Zappa. "Every dollar donated warms one person."
For more information about One Warm Coat, please visit www.onewarmcoat.org.
To locate coat drives or partner agencies that accept coats, please visit www.onewarmcoat.org/donatecoats.