Thirty-five years ago, A Cleaner World kicked off the first ever Give A Kid A Coat campaign in October 1987, and for twenty-nine years, we followed the tradition of kicking off the campaign at various times throughout the month of October. The collection period would run for 5 to 6 weeks and would end anywhere from mid to late November.
If you have lived in the south for any part of your life, you know that fall can truly be fall or just an extension of summer. I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent in North Carolina; my parents came to visit, and we sat outside on my deck wearing jeans and short-sleeved shirts. As someone who is always cold, I love that it can be 70 degrees in October.
The downside of 70 degrees in October is that no one is thinking about winter coats, and as a result, the number of coats we collected would decline as temperatures remained more moderate. When chilly weather finally did arrive, the number of donated coats available for distribution did not meet the needs of the folks in our community. And with multiple programs running at once, Gifts for Kids, Holiday Concerts, Red Kettle Campaign, Thanksgiving and Christmas Assistance, Angel Tree, and Give A Kid A Coat, The Salvation Army was also experiencing a shortage of both space and volunteers.
The benefit of having both experience and wonderful community partners is that we all recognized opportunities for improvement, and we were all motivated to make changes that would make the biggest impact for those in our community. Knowing that colder weather would be a good reminder to check closets for outgrown coats and realizing that families would purchase or receive new coats over the holiday season, we moved the 2017 Give A Kid A Coat kick off date to January 6. This proved to be a wise decision because we received over 4,500 more coat donations than in the prior campaign.
This date change did not come without worries; for instance, what if a child needed a coat in November? Our team decided that we would make it clear that any member of our community that needed a coat before the Give A Kid A Coat collection dates began could simply visit their local Salvation Army to receive a coat at any time throughout the year. To make sure the date changes were running well and that needs were being met, I checked in with Hannah Holcomb, Marketing and Development Coordinator for The Salvation Army of High Point. “We only have a few requests (maybe 2-3) before the campaign begins,” she explained, “and we are able to fill those requests before and after our published distribution dates with the remaining coats we keep on hand from the previous campaign. The date change coincides well with our weather pattern, so the majority of requests are coming in during the campaign period because that's when it starts to get cold! We can fill requests before and after the campaign for families in need at any time throughout the year.”
We feel like the move to January was a win for our community; holiday and winter programs are properly staffed, and there is plenty of room for gifts, food, and coats. The biggest win of all is that everyone that needs a winter coat can get a winter coat just by simply showing up at their local Salvation Army.