Over the last nine Christmas holiday seasons, Sunbury Cleaners employees have teamed up with David Widder of Caldwell Banker to provide winter coats for central Ohio needy families.
Last year the drive netted more than 1,000 coats, with many of them going to Big Walnut area families in need via Big Walnut Friends Who Share, eastern Delaware County’s grass-roots social service agency. The rest went to Better Way Ministry in the Short North district in Columbus.
Now in its 10th year, the Widder/Sunbury Cleaners winter coat drive is accepting winter coats, sweaters, hats, gloves and blankets through December. Many coats will again go to Big Walnut Friends Who Share and Better Way Ministries, and all blankets will be delivered to Faith Mission in Columbus.
Sunbury Cleaners manager Jane Milburn said the coat drive is a Sunbury Cleaners labor of love, with store employees pitching in to examine them for wear and professionally clean them before delivery.
When the coat project began 10 years ago, 150 coats were collected, dry-cleaned and distributed. The second year boasted 250 coats, and by the third year 440 coats were collected and distributed.
Milburn said any size coat in any condition would be accepted, cleaned and distributed.
“I’m certain we’re going to need adult coats, we always do at this time of year as the weather starts to turn cold,” Milburn said. “But the biggest need is always for children’s winter coats, hats and gloves.”
Milburn said to also remember to donate used sweaters, and that blankets are always in short supply at Faith Mission during cold winter months.
“It doesn’t matter what condition they’re in,” Milburn added. “They will be cleaned and distributed to somewhere they are needed. We even get walk-ins. When someone needs a winter coat for themselves or a family member, they come here, and we’ve always been able to take care of their need.”
Milburn said some coats have started coming in, but this year’s coat drive is off to a slow start.
“Coming into winter we will find homes for as many coats as we can get,” Milburn said. “We don’t want anybody going cold, so we’ll be accepting items through December — as long as there’s a need.
“We always thank the members of our community who pitch in and help out this time of year,” Milburn added. “We even had a lady last year who went out and bought new kids’ coats that all went to one local family in need.”
To participate in the coat drive, drop used winter coats (infant through adult sizes), sweaters, hats, gloves and blankets at Sunbury Cleaners, 23 W. Granville St., Sunbury, or at the Sunbury Cleaners store at Highland Lakes. Both stores are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093