DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - December 7, 2007

Brrrrrring out the coats

Rotary hopes to provide One Warm Coat for anyone who needs one

by Jordan M. Doronila

A bright lemon coat dazzled the eyes of a poor, 102-year-old Filipino man at a giveaway event five years ago. He was waiting in a cold parking lot in Martinez with 3,000 other people to see what comfort the volunteers could provide.

"He showed his coat to everybody," said Dany Gregory, a coordinator of the One Warm Coat drive held each year by the San Ramon Valley Rotary Club. "He said, 'Look at the beautiful coat I have!'"

The Rotary Club, which has Danville and Alamo members, is continuing its 12th One Warm Coat drive for the needy. This year's appeal began Oct. 13 and will end Saturday, Dec. 15. The group garnered 13,000 coats last year and distributed them to shelters in the Bay Area, Gregory said.

"They fill a need for us, which is very important," said Mary Perez, whose organization Christmas for Everyone, in Concord, receives some of the donations. "It's very cold at this time of year."

Residents can donate coats at drop-off points at businesses throughout the San Ramon Valley. Sites in Danville include Diablo Lodge of Danville, Pascal's French Oven, Moda Mi, Remax, Heritage Bank and Keller Williams Realty.

They can also be dropped at Oscar's Jewelry in Alamo, the San Ramon Community Center, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, and Diablo Valley College.

Gregory said the club receives coats that are new and old, wool coats and parkas, 49er and Raiders jackets, cashmere and fur. Her group also receives other clothing such as sweaters, hats, gloves and even blankets.

"Everything you can imagine, we have that," said Gregory.

"They are just amazing quality," Perez said. "None of them have holes. None of them are torn."

The items are delivered to organizations in Richmond, Oakland, Concord and other cities, including the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond and Jubilee Tri-Valley in Livermore. Some go to the Macedonian Outreach in Romania and Bosnia and little villages in Mexico.

The deprived "need to have something on their shoulders," said Gregory. "It's the best way to give them what we collect from people who have a lot of money."

Gregory's husband Bill - founder of the San Ramon Valley Rotary Club - started the coat drive in 1995. The drive began modestly, collecting 55 coats and sweaters. But the idea grew as club members increased each year. In 2000, 3,400 coats, sweaters and blankets were collected; in 2003, more than 9000 were gathered. The group reached the 13,000 mark in 2006.

"My husband wanted to put warm coats on children and people in need," Gregory said. "It's cold in the winter."

Gregory noted that at times she receives awkward queries of where the donated coats go.

"Some people who have money ask me where the coats are going," she said. "I explain that there a lot of shelters and there are a lot of people in need. They don't have the money."

After 12 years, Gregory remains enthusiastic about the One Warm Coat drive.

"Every year, we get more and more companies and organizations, asking to have a box to collect sweaters and coats," she said.

Other ways to give

What: Town of Danville 14th annual Holiday Toy Drive

When: Ends Dec. 17

Where: Town Offices, 510 La Gonda Way; Danville Library and Community Center, 400 Front St.

What: Toys for Tots

When: Through Dec. 14

Where: Sheriff's Department Valley Station in Alamo Plaza

What: Toys for Tots; Food Bank

When: Until Dec. 15

Where: Countrywide Home Loans, 7 Railroad Ave., Danville

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