EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Organizers of a local coat collection drive that met with overwhelming success celebrated the effort at a Thanksgiving service on Sunday evening at Unionville Presbyterian Church.
As supporters filed in, they could see what was obvious: The chancel was piled high with garments that had been collected by the church, the Kennett Township Police, the Longwood Fire Company, the Rotary Club of Kennett Square and Kendal-Crosslands Communities.
Pastor Annalie Korengel said the boxes on view held about 1,000 coats, and more were expected to come in next week.
“We are a community that knows it is blessed, and we know we must share the blessings,” she told her congregation.
How did it start?
Korengel explained that weeks ago she had considered and actually put in place a drive to collect coats for several local nonprofit agencies. As chaplain for the Kennett Township Police, she was friends with detective Amanda Wenrich, who said the police were considering the same thing. Korengel said she suggested that they join in the effort, and from there the project grew.
Additionally, the Kennett Fire Company put out the call for coats as did the other organizations.
Soon Genesis Healthcare joined in with contributions as did Exelon.
Wenrich said the police sent out the plea not only with social media but word of mouth. Members of the fire company urged people to stop by the station and drop off a new or gently used coat. Kornegel organized a needs list to make sure that under-collected size ranges were obtained.
As for setting out the containers for deposit, Wenrich said the police had a bunch of big old boxes hanging around, while other groups said they purchased them.
As Wenrich, Korengel, fire company paramedic Catherine Rawlings and Kendal-Crosslands publicity coordinator Michele Berardi stood among the piles of coats, each said that they were aware of the need for coats.
Rawlings said she sees the need when she meets victims of fires and has been especially touched by children who were shivering.
Wenrich said that in this community of plenty, she has seen many who cannot even afford a coat.
Just this week, another aspect of the collection took place. The devastating fire at Barclay Friends community in West Chester prompted the organizers to ask for financial contributions to help the relief efforts. During the passing of the collection plates, parishioners dug into their pockets and purses, giving money for that cause.
After the singing and praying of the service, recipients of the coats from various organizations had a chance to express their gratitude.
Spokespersons from Family Promise, Maternal and Child Health Consortium, La Comunidad, Young Moms, the Garage and Kennett Area Community Service uniformly said the need was there, and they were grateful.
La Comunidad Executive Director Alicia Jones said, “We are so happy to have these coats. The kids are so happy, and the looks on their parents’ faces is even happier.”
The Garage director Jeremy Petersen said the collection effort was “extremely humbling.”
Kennett Area Community Service Board President Barbara Larsen described how touched she was when a woman came to get food for her neighbor in need, but that woman herself was cold. Larsen said the woman at first refused a coat for herself and child, then accepted for her child. Eventually, she accepted a coat for herself and told Larsen, “I feel loved.”
After the service, Korengel said she has other projects planned like a food drive for children in the summer who can no longer receive free lunches, and a book drive for those who have none.
Wenrich summed up her response and that of her follow police officers: “We wanted to have a positive project. I had no idea it would be this much of a success.”