Annual coat drive spreads warmth throughout Eagle County |

Annual coat drive spreads warmth throughout Eagle County

The United Way and Catholic Charities are giving away free winter gear through Dec. 3

Megan Bonta with Catholic Charities helps a youngster into a new coat during the United Way of Eagle Valley and Catholic Charities 2018 coat drive, kicking off the holiday giving season. The 2022 coat drive is expected to be a big success.
Courtesy photo

Staying warm is a necessity in Eagle County, not just a luxury. That’s why each year the United Way of Eagle River Valley partners with Catholic Charities Western Slope to host an annual coat drive with the goal of equipping community members with necessary winter gear. 

Hannah Conoley, United Way of Eagle River Valley’s development coordinator, said that staff with Catholic Charities Western Slope work with local law enforcement officials in each of the valley’s towns to coordinate donation locations for the coat drive. At these donation stations, community members can discard of unwanted and extra winter gear. This gear, including coats, boots, gloves, etc. is then sorted for redistribution at the coat drive.

The United Way of Eagle River Valley also collects coats from the organization’s Youth Closet, a free-to-shop closet of youth essentials including clothes and school supplies, Conoley explained.

After ample winter gear was gathered, the 2022 coat drive began, Conoley said. Between Nov. 21 and Dec. 3. The United Way of Eagle River Valley distributes coats back to the community. 

Coats and other winter gear in the coat drive are available for pickup at the Youth Closet and Toy Chest in Edwards. Conoley said anyone can come in to pick up a coat while the drive is ongoing.

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“They are all free of charge,” Conoley said. “And of course, we don’t ask any income information and we don’t verify that you need a coat. We just ask that people sign up if they don’t have one yet.”

For those planning on picking up winter gear from the coat drive, the sign-up sheet can be accessed by visiting The United Way of Eagle River Valley’s website

Last year, Conoley said that the coat drive successfully distributed over 200 items to community members in need of some extra warmth. However, Conoley said the organization has big plans for the 2022 coat drive turnout. 

“We’re hoping to blow [last year’s] number out of the water,” Conoley said. “This year, we’ve been collecting things that people have donated to our closets year-round.”

In preparation for what the United Way of Eagle River Valley hopes turns out to be its biggest coat drive yet, Conoley said that staff has been sorting out and setting aside any winter gear donations the organization has received throughout the year. 

“So, when we’ve been getting big piles of winter gear donated in the summer, we hold that off until now so that we can make sure our racks are stacked with all the necessary sizes for the coat drive,” Conoley said.

Conoley said supplying something as simple as coats to the community can make a big difference. 

“As many of us know, winter coats and winter gear, in general, is extremely expensive,” Conoley said. “If you’re already living on a tight budget, you don’t always have room in that budget to buy a coat for your kid who’s maybe grown three coat sizes in the last six months.”

The annual coat drive is one way the United Way of Eagle River Valley and Catholic Charities Western Slope aim to ease the financial burden on community members and take the worry out of staying warm. 

Conoley also said that those who come into the coat drive are not just limited to coats. 

“When families come to the Youth Closet to get coats, they can get anything else that they might need to support their family for free,” she said. “School clothes, school supplies, infant essentials like onesies and diapers and wipes. If they want something fun for the holidays, they need some books or some toys to help their kids get through break. So, they don’t need to just come for a coat, they can come for anything else that their family might need and they can get it for free.”

Without warmth, other areas of one’s life can fall to the wayside, Conoley said, including physical and mental health, illustrating the demand for the annual coat drive. 

“By helping people stay warm, we’re hopefully helping other parts of their lives,” she said. “Help them get to their job without being cold, help their kids stay warm going to and from school, be able to play outside and enjoy the area that we live in a lot more.”

While the coat drive is already ongoing, Conoley said there are still ways the community can help keep their neighbors warm. She explained how boys’ and girls’ zero to 24-month-old coat sizes and gear are in extremely low stock and are in demand at the coat drive.

“Those sizes are desperately needed,” Conoley said. “People can drop off donations at the Youth Closet any time.”

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