This unique charity, founded more than a decade ago, asks no questions and has only one mission–to make sure people stay warm.
Margaret Paolucci still remembers the first child through the door, a tiny girl, thrilled to get a purple coat.
“And I asked what was wrong with her hair,” said Paolucci, director and founder of the Coat Closet. “And the teacher who brought her in said her mother didn’t have the money to buy treatment for head lice, so she just shaved her daughter’s head.”
In the 14 years since, this labor of love has tugged at Paolucci’s heart strings.
“Many times, I’ve gone home and cried,” she noted. “The poverty is just so overwhelming here, especially the children.”
“Some of them don’t even have a coat,” said Karen Kahl, a helper with the Coat Closet for eight years. “They’re shivering in short sleeves. It’s terrible.”
They’re open Wednesdays and Fridays, 3 to 5 p.m.
At times, they’ve given out more than 100 coats in one day.
They never take names or ask for proof of income.
If you need a coat, you are welcome.
Paolucci is always tidying up, and hanging up any coats that she finds.
Last year, that nearly caused a problem.
“She went back into our storage room and she saw this coat and she picked it up,” recalled Kahl with a smile. “And a lady tried it on. Thank goodness it didn’t fit. It was my coat, with my cell phone and house keys in it!”
“At this time of year, sometimes we have things, and other times we do not,” said Danee’ Williams, the mother of a 14-month-old girl. “And it’s nice to see that there are agencies that are able to provide this. We are so blessed, and we appreciate it.”
In 14 years, Paolucci has given out thousands of coats.
“Oh, last year it was 981, the year before it was over a thousand, the year before that, a thousand,” she said.
She tells everyone the same thing as they go out the door: “Stay warm!”
The Coat Closet of Belmont County is located in the basement of the Bellaire Christian Church.
It is made possible by generous donations.
They accept donations of gently-used clean coats or of money.
To find out how you can help, call (740) 676-5077.