From Nov. 4 through Dec. 15, the group will collect new and gently used winter coats from local businesses, schools, families and individuals so that the people in the city who need them can have them.
This citywide drive could not be possible without the generosity of Mario Socci, owner and operator of Mario’s Professional Dry Cleaners a division of Ridgeway Cleaners, both located in Stamford. Socci, with the help of his employees, sorts all of the coats collected by size and gender, enters them into their computer system, cleans them for no charge, stores them and then with the help of BH volunteers, delivers them to be distributed.
Socci said he had always wanted to do a coat drive but was unsure on how to get started. He said he went through a rough time in his life and others helped him along the way. He appreciated it so much that he wanted to give back to others in need.
He said he would see kids along his delivery routes on cold winter days walking to school. He explained how there were those who didn’t want to wear coats because it wasn’t cool, and there were others who didn’t wear them because they didn't have the means to buy one. The tone in his voice made it clear just how heartbreaking that was to him.
“The most selfish thing you can do is to give. As good as it is to give, it’s very selfish because it makes you feel good. It’s a good kind of selfish because its a win-win situation,'' Socci said.
Socci heard about Angela Malizia and her vision to make a difference in Stamford and asked to meet with her. It was during that encounter where he asked Angela if she wanted to do a coat drive and ironically that was exactly what she was looking to do. That was the first of many "perfect timing" moments for BH, where things just always seem to work out in perfect harmony. It was also the first major project for Backyard Humanitarian.
In the past four years, BH has collected more than 2,000 coats. The bulk of the coats were given away by BH volunteers at St. Luke’s LifeWorks in Stamford on a set distribution day that was open to men, women and children.
The large upper loft area at St. Luke’s was transformed into a quaint little "shop" where the ‘customers’ had a chance to try them on, look at themselves in the mirrors and ask for assistance from the volunteer "personal shoppers." Some of the coats were also given away to other organizations in Stamford. BH is hoping to collect enough coats again this year to be able to set up ‘shop’ once again.
“I’ve seen the excitement, the relief, the appreciation and even tears in people’s eyes, not only from those who receive their new coat but also from our volunteers who are able to give someone that coat,'' Angela Malizia said.
Donations of new and gently used warm coats, may be dropped off starting Nov. 4 at Mario’s Professional Dry Cleaners, 929 Hope St. or Ridgeway Cleaners, 2802 Summer St. If dropping off more than 10 coats at either of these locations only, call ahead to 203-388-8532.
For more information on how to volunteer with Backyard Humanitarian, to find other drop off locations or to be a drop off location for the coat drive, go to www.backyardhumanitarian.org. The organization also can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Robyn Blosio Bova is a Realtor with Higgins Group in Stamford and Greenwich and a volunteer with Backyard Humanitarian.
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