Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TOP STORY >> Coat drive gets underway

Leader staff writer

As the weather turns colder, Tracy O’Bryan of Austin is leading the fourth annual Cabot coat drive for the homeless, which starts Friday, Nov. 1.

Coats will be distributed the week before Thanksgiving at Christmas to Hands, Hearts and Hope 4 Humanity (H4H) in Cabot and The One in Little Rock. Both are ministries that help the homeless.

“The more we can help, the better. Our homeless numbers are growing. Our local need is growing,” O’Bryan said.

The coat drive is accepting new and used coats, anything clean and useable. The coats will be collected by the O’Bryan family and sorted in her garage by gender and sizes. Last year, around 1,000 coats were donated.

“We do receive winter wear in our boxes. We’ll gratefully take them and distribute them as well,” she said.

O’Bryan said the economy is still hurting, causing a loss of jobs and hours. She said people are tightening purse strings. The need is greater as time goes on, she said. Meanwhile, children have growth spurts and their coats become too small.

“In the homeless environment, (the homeless) protect their coat and shelter with life and limb. If they don’t have one, they are going to take one,” O’Bryan said.

She said coats may not last long while living in the elements. They are stolen. Some use coats as bedding or bundle their children with two or three coats.

O’Bryan said she was once clueless that there were people who have nothing.

Now she knows some are veterans who are lost in the system and many of the homeless are families with young children.

Some people live paycheck to paycheck. One or two missed checks and they are on the street, O’Bryan noted.

“Handing them a coat and seeing their eyes, you don’t have to hear ‘thank you,’” she said.

O’Bryan continues to organize the coat drive because she was helped once during hard times.

She said several years ago she was a single mom having to work full time. O’Bryan said it was a hard time. People stepped up and helped her provide a Christmas to her family. She said it was a blessing.

“It changes you and who you are. I wanted to pay it forward and help others,” O’Bryan said.

Her family helps gather and sort winter jackets. “I wanted them to have a giving heart. I think they still remember that Christmas,” she said.

People who want to donate or are in need of a coat may call 501-286-7176 and leave a message.

Donation boxes will be located in Cabot at:

• Joyland Skating, 2020 S. Second St.

• Knight’s Super Foods, 906 S. Pine St.

• Kroger, 1295 W. Main St.

• Pine Street Animal Clinic, 803 S. Pine St.

• Price Cutter, 805 W. Main St.

All locations are in Cabot.