BLUE EARTH - In 2009, Hope United Methodist Church reached out, asking for donations of coats to give to the needy. Now, members are conducting the Fifth Annual Bundle Up Coat Drive.
Donations can be dropped off at the church from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and Sunday mornings. Those who need warm weather outerwear can come to the church from 10 a.m. to noon the next two Saturdays as well as Monday, Nov. 25, and pick up what they need for free.
"It's for anybody; the requirement is you need a coat," said Gail Keck of Hope UMC. "We don't take names unless they are looking for something specific and we need to call them when it comes in."
GIVING?HOPE?— Gail Keck holds a small coat. More than 200 coats are available free to anyone who needs one during the Fifth Annual Bundle Up Coat Drive at Hope United Methodist Church in Blue Earth.
Coats to be dropped off should be clean and gently used. Minor repairs are made by Michele's Sewing. Some are overstocks from local stores. Some are purchased during out-of-season sales by Hope members. Monetary donations will be used to buy coats for people whose sizes are not available.
"I know we're over 200 coats at this point," said Keck, "from the smallest baby coat, up to 5XL."
All kinds of coats are hanging in the dining area of the church. Spread on tables are hats, gloves and scarves. Some snowpants and boots are available too.
Keck knows people in the community who contribute their handiwork. The church's prayer shawl group has members that knit and crochet.
"A lot of people like keeping their resources here and helping people here," she said. "If they can help someone, this is a great community for that."
The coat drive has been going well.
"There's a big need this year, especially elementary sizes," Keck said. "Size 6 to 16 in youth; anything that size has been flying out the door."
Hope has built a reputation and receives referrals from Human Resources of Faribault and Martin Counties when the agency has someone in need, especially children.
That's why the coat drive began, Keck said.
In 2009, members of the newly formed Hope United Methodist Church noticed the economy was bad and wanted to help.
"We thought we could do something for the community and show the love of God to them with something tangible," Keck said.
She had seen ads for Bundle Me Warm in Mankato and realized something.
"[Coats are] one of the most costly items to outfit [kids] with," Keck said. "Right here in Blue Earth, there weren't any thrift stores for people to get a bargain."
She talked it over with the Missions committee.
"We thought, 'Let's see how it goes, giving it away for free and see what happens,'" Keck said.
"The first year, we were actually very nervous about it," she recalled. "We got a lot of donations, a lot of money to buy sizes we didn't have."
They heard some criticism: Blue Earth didn't need a coat drive because there were no poor people. Would they be stuck with all these coats?
"We found out it was needed, just as we thought," Keck said.
They try to keep track of how many coats they give away.
"Last year, over 230 coats went out the door," Keck said. "Plus a few dozen snowpants. Over 300 pairs of mittens and gloves."
Anything left over can be donated to the epilepsy drive, the Salvation Army or held for next year's drive.
"Because it's Minnesota and it's cold every year, whether there's snow or not," Keck said.
Hope UMC is located at 12080 380th Avenue. Take Main Street north past the water tower; the church is across from KJLY radio station. Call Hope at (507) 526-2144 or visit www.behopeumc.com