WHAT'S WORKING: Church hosts coat drive to help community this Christmas season

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -- Hundreds packed a small room in a shopping center off Reading Road on Saturday morning, but they're not shopping. They were there to get a gift that is meant to warm up their holidays: a free coat.

"We have over 300 donated coats," said Yasmen Jones, who helped organize the event. "We wish we had more, because we see the need is so great. We got here this morning to get set up at 10 a.m. and there were people already waiting."

The idea is the brainchild of Allen Temple A.M.E. member Edna Rogers-Williams.

"I was downtown one day and there was gentlemen asking for change," said Rogers-Williams. "I noticed that all he had on was a t-shirt, and it was about 20 degrees that day."

She decided someone had to fix that problem.

She asked her church to help. Members did, but she knew that not all of the donations would be ready for those who needed them the most. Rogers-Williams asked two local dry cleaners, Super Press Dry Cleaners and Golf Manor Fabric Care Cleaners, to discount their services so she could clean the coats.

"I was standing in here, talking to my mother and she walked in and asked me if I could clean her coats because she was doing a coat drive," said Angel Blakes, owner of Super Press Dry Cleaners. "I just said yes."

Both dry cleaners did something even better; they cleaned all of the coats for free.

"Everybody needs a coat," said Blakes. "There are people out here that are homeless, they're hungry, they're cold. They need help."

Both dry cleaners finished the work on Saturday. Volunteers collected the donations, then packed them in their cars, and headed to the church.

Alyscia Stone-King was able to get coats for each of her seven children.

"It actually helps me to get other things that they need," said Stone-King. "I'm more into the needs for the wants. I really came for my children, and they offered me a coat as well so I was extra grateful for that."

Members also donated dozens of toys for children.

The coat drive is part of the Food Pantry ministry at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church. The food pantry is open to anyone every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. It's been open since January, and organizers say the need has been great. Organizers said filling that need is what this season is all about.

"I just want to say it's the season, honestly, for everyone to pull together as a community, as a family, not just Allen Temple Church, but the community to help each other," said Jones. "So let's just not forget what the season is about. It's about giving and servicing."

And those who received coats on Saturday said they appreciated the effort.

"I would like to say thank you and God bless everyone at Allen Temple Church," said Stone-King. "Keep up the good work. I love you all for helping my children and myself."

Organizers hope to host another coat drive next year. They say they need more men's coats.

"I would love to do this again next year," said Rogers-Williams. "As soon as I clear this with the pastor, we will be doing an annual coat drive here at the Temple because the Temple cares."

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