Tropical storms Irene and Lee washed out houses in the Capital Region during the summer, so no one put winter coats at the top of the list of things that had to be replaced.
But now it’s getting cold, and many families are still trying to dry out their homes. Suddenly, those ruined coats are looking a lot more important.
On Tuesday, five separate families came to Schoharie County’s Department of Social Services and confessed that they needed help. They simply couldn’t afford to buy enough coats to outfit everyone.
Luckily, help was already on the way.
Sondra Stephens, owner of Sondra’s Fine Jewelry in Schenectady, has been gathering coats for weeks. She told friends and family that if they gave up a few weeks of gourmet coffee, postponed a manicure and tightened their belts, they could easily afford to buy a coat.
She hoped a few people would donate. Instead, she got more than 400 coats. On Tuesday, she dropped off 300 in Cobleskill to be delivered throughout Schoharie County. Social services officials there told her they’d use every coat she had — and that they hoped she’d come back with more.
She also brought 30 coats to Fort Hunter, where officials had requested them. Next, she’s heading to Mariaville — but first she needs more coats.
Her new goal: 600 more coats by Nov. 20. She’s already well on her way. “I came back [from delivering coats], and Head to Tail had dropped off 25 coats, and someone else dropped off about 25 coats,” she said.
Stephens started the campaign right after Tropical Storm Irene because she suspected coats would be a low priority until the first cold weather hit. She’s also seen that coats are a popular present in Toys for Tots, which she runs for the Capital Region.
“I’m originally from Amsterdam, so I have a loyalty to the west of us. We wanted to help, and we felt, how could we step up?” she said. “It’s going to be winter. We take it for granted we have a winter coat to put on.”
Almost all of the donated coats are new, and nearby Hartz Dry Cleaners on upper Union Street offered to clean the 90 coats that were in “barely worn” condition.
Coats are now being collected at Ellis Hospital and at Sondra’s Fine Jewelry, 1624 Union St. All sizes are needed, for children and adults. Coats must be new or “as new” condition.
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