Annual coat drive warming up the Lowcountry

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Annual coat drive warming up the Lowcountry

By CATHY CARTER HARLEY
charley@beaufortgazette.com
843-706-8248
Published Monday, December 13, 2010   |  392 Words  |  

The weather might be chilly, but coat donations are hot.

Jackets, coats and thick sweaters are being collected for the 20th annual Furniture Warehouse Design Gallery Coat Drive. The drive created by the gallery's Larry and Robyn Mark benefits three local nonprofit groups -- HELP of Beaufort, Bluffton Self Help and The Deep Well Project.

Steve Curless, president of HELP of Beaufort, said donations of coats and outerwear received through the gallery's coat drive are going out almost as fast as they are coming in.

"I know that they are going out like hot cakes, they are," Curless said. "The first load we got went right away."

Curless said at other times of the year HELP has trouble keeping up with the demand for coats. The gallery's coat drive helps fill that void.

"We get a few coats in, but not near the amount we get when (Furniture Warehouse) does their coat drive," he said. "We probably have gotten 200 from them already, and we probably will get 500 to 700 more coats."

Bluffton Self Help executive director Jenny Haney said the drive serves a huge need.

"We'd be lost without this coat drive," Haney said. "People are signing up for coats for their kids and themselves. The coats are going out as fast as they come in. There is definitely a need, especially when it got so cold so quickly."

The Marks are celebrating two decades of keeping people warm and said the drive is doing well this year. Larry Mark said bins at the gallery are filling up every three to four days.

"We have added drop-off points this year and about six or seven schools north and south of the Broad River are participating in a big way, as well as BB&T and the Beaufort Police Department," he said. "A lot of groups are participating. I think it will be huge this year."

The drive was begun by the couple as a way to help people in the community. Collections have grown from 250 the first year to double that the next year, reaching nearly 3,166 last year. More than 30,000 donations have been collected in the past 18 years. This year's goal is 3,483 items. The drive runs through Dec. 31.