Last weekend’s first major cold snap of the winter told us what we already knew about ourselves in Cleveland and Bradley County: When forecasters say “snow,” there’s not a loaf of bread nor …
Last weekend’s first major cold snap of the winter told us what we already knew about ourselves in Cleveland and Bradley County: When forecasters say “snow,” there’s not a loaf of bread nor gallon of milk safe from the clutches of a circumspect consumer.
The nearly single-digit temperatures also taught us this: The value of a coat should never be taken for granted.
Such reasoning points to the importance — and to the humanitarianism — of the annual “Coats for the Cold” initiative, a much-beloved longtime project coordinated again by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office (Litter Grant Program) which is teaming with Chick-fil-A and a host of other businesses, services and professional offices that are serving as collection points.
Founded in 1999 by Sheriff Eric Watson — before he was the sheriff — Coats for the Cold came about because of a law enforcement professional who not only witnessed need, he chose to do something about it.
In his BCSO role at the time, Watson made it a point to stay in touch with the community the Sheriff’s Office served.
“I was patrolling around the Ocoee Village Apartments one day,” he told our newspaper in a recent interview. “It was very cold. I saw two kids on the playground who did not have a jacket on.”
The sight prompted Watson to look a little deeper by finding the parents, only to discover both were involved in substance abuse and thereby had little interest in assuring their children had proper winter clothing.
“That inspired me to start this,” he said.
He hasn’t let up since.
Coats for the Cold accepts new or gently used winter garments for children and adults. Once the coats are collected, the used ones are repaired and cleaned; much of the work is done by trustees at the Bradley County Justice Center.
Since its inception, Coats for the Cold has distributed more than 10,200 coats and jackets.
This year’s drive, which kicked off on a cold Tuesday morning eight days ago at Chick-fil-A on north Keith Street, will continue to accept coats and jackets through Monday, Jan. 16.
Those wishing to make clothing donations may visit any of these collection points:
- Chick-fil-A, located at 3890 Keith St. N.W.;
- Any Bradley County BB&T banking location;
- The Village Tire Center, located at 232 3rd St. S.W.;
- The office of Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith, located on the first floor of the Bradley County Courthouse;
- Family Tire & Auto Center, located at 215 West Inman St.;
- Logan-Thompson law offices, located at 30 2nd St. N.W.; and
- Bradley County Sheriff’s Office lobby, located at 2290 Blythe Ave. S.E.
Once the collection period is completed, and the coats and jackets are repaired and cleaned, they are handed over to BCSO’s school resource officers, who work with a list of students and families in need. Garments are also provided to others whose need is legitimate, whether or not their names appear on the school lists.
Watson wrote about the program on New Year’s Day in his weekly column in the Cleveland Daily Banner.
He reflected on the incident years ago when he discovered children playing outside in the cold, but who had no coats.
“I determined two things back then ... that I wanted to do what I could to help children who had no winter wear, and that why the family couldn’t afford the warmth of a coat wasn’t an issue,” he explained. “To me, what was important was the children had no winter wear.”
The sheriff stressed, “I made my concern for these children known to friends and family. Soon, Coats for the Cold was underway.”
Since its inception, the Cleveland and Bradley County community has continued to embrace the Coats for the Cold program. Similar winter-garment initiatives operate here as well, and each has succeeded.
Why? Because of the generosity of the people of this community.
Whether it’s Coats for the Cold, or community drives operated by long-respected local cleaning services or others, people here will respond when they’re given the chance.
That’s why Coats for the Cold succeeds. That’s why Coats for the Cold will continue to succeed ... because the residents of Cleveland and Bradley County stand behind it.
Remember the deadline: Monday, Jan. 16.
To some, it is just a used coat. But to those who are cold, it is life.
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