Two words: “I’m cold.”
This was not your typical phone call to a funeral home. But that’s what the woman who called Haley-McGinnis Funeral Home and Crematory said. The person on the other end of the line was Funeral Service Professional, Nathan Morris.
The coat drive began long before Morris started working for the funeral home, but “that phone call was when I became passionate about the coat drive,” Morris said. “That sort of thing happens right under our noses right here in Owensboro.”
She knew she was calling the right place. Nathan told the woman to come to the funeral home and pick out a coat. After stepping off a city bus at Fifth & Locust, Nathan met her at the front door and welcomed her in. “I walked her into the room where we store all the coats and she picked out a brand new coat for herself. She walked out with the biggest smile on her face – and I knew she was warm. That is exactly what the coat drive is all about.”
Now in its 17th year, what began as a project of Haley-McGinnis has truly become a community-wide initiative that has supplied 20,000 coats to men, women and children.
But it all goes back to a very practical response, when Mike Everly, President of Haley-McGinnis, noticed kids going to school with no coats in the cold of winter and decided to do something about it. After presenting the idea to the staff at Haley-McGinnis, Ken Sheaffer took the idea and ran with it.
“That’s really how it started: with the desire to keep kids warm,” Morris summarized. “Mike’s always had a soft spot for kids, and that’s how it began, but over the years the coat drive transitioned from kids to men, women and kids.”
Several years ago, Haley-McGinnis partnered with Independence Bank to expand their reach. There are now collection boxes at all Daviess County Independence Bank locations. Said Morris, “We wanted to partner with an organization that gets the concept of community – and Independece Bank definitely does.”
“I think it’s a wonderful cause,” said Emily Cissell, an Independence Bank employee that has been involved with the coat drive for two years. Since the bank has partnered with the coat drive, Cissell says many Independence employees clean out their own closets and bring in coats. “I have coats I have outgrown. Something that seems small to me – like a coat – could mean the world to someone else. That’s what I like about the coat drive.”
Last year, Independence collected 2,000 coats for the drive. “We hope this is our biggest year,” Cissell said. “One customer last week dropped off 30 coats at the Parrish Avenue branch.”
Harold’s Cleaners is another community partner. They dry-clean any donated coats that need to be laundered, since a lot of the coats come in gently used.
When the coats come in, Sheaffer sorts and organizers them. “Ken is very passionate about the coat drive,” Morris explained. “He puts a lot of time and effort into keeping things rolling. And he loves giving the coats out.“
Shaeffer coordinates the distribution by contacting schools and other organizations to deliver the coats. “I usually check with Hager Preschool first. Then Cravens, Estes and Foust, but anyone can contact us if they know someone who needs a new coat,” he said.
Coats are also delivered to Boulware Center, Daniel Pitino Shelter and Audubon Area Family Development Center.
Owensboro is a very generous community. “Sometimes we’ll even get suit coats and rain coats donated,” Ken said. “We take those down to the Help Office for their clothing bank. But all the winter stuff gets delivered.”
Collection continues until December 20. Coats can be brought to Haley-McGinnis (519 Locust St.) or any Daviess County Independence Bank location.
“If you have family, if you have kids, you have coats in closets that are probably not being used and there is someone out there that needs it. So bring it in and we’ll give it to someone who will use it,” Morris said.
Our hope is for this year to be the biggest year yet. We are committed to continuing it forever and ever. – Nathan Morris