By Brittany Carlson, Belvoir EagleOctober 17, 2013
The USO of Metropolitan Washington, Heidi's Pantry and One Warm Coat host the 2nd Annual Coat and Clothing Drive on Fort Belvoir this month to help military Families and government civilians in need.
Through Oct. 26, community members can donate their used and new winter clothing of all sizes at the USO Warrior and Family Center and all of the Villages at Belvoir community centers.
The coats and clothing will be distributed Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the USO Warehouse at 9455 Jackson Loop.
"It's all going to go back into Fort Belvoir Families," said K.J. Stevens, USO programs coordinator. "It's great to see the community come together to support those that might be needing help this winter,"
Winter coats are needed in all sizes, as well as long-sleeved shirts, shoes, pants, jeans and baby clothes sizes 0 to 24 months.
"It is a wonderful sight to see a child in a thick warm coat and know that they will be warm this winter," said Jacqui Bullock, Heidi's Pantry volunteer. "Everyone needs help at some point. If you have an extra coat in your closet and you donate it, it would mean the world to a Family that might not otherwise be able to provide."
The coat drive is open to active or retired military Families in all service branches and Department of Defense civilian employees with an ID card. Anyone who would like to receive coats or winter clothing must contact firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to request an aid form.
Christine Vance, the director of the food share program, Heidi's Pantry, started the coat drive last year in response to the financial challenges many military Families face.
"We found through getting to know some of our Families over the past year that many had larger Families and had financial hardships that went outside the norm of just making sure ends meet," she said. "Most often you will find that military Families are larger than they used to be and especially in this economy, it is difficult to provide the clothing and attire that our children need as they grow, let alone the extra attire that is necessary to keep them warm and healthy through the cold, winter months."
Last year, the Heidi's Pantry Coat and Clothing Drive distributed more than 500 jackets in three days, as well as jeans, shirts, hats, gloves, scarves, shoes and hooded sweatshirts, Vance said.
"This year, we hope to not only match that but to surpass it with our community's support," she said.
Vance, who is also a military spouse, founded Heidi's Pantry in February 2012 to help provide food to military Families. To her, the coat drive is an extension of this project because it helps military Families with a limited budget.
"I think it is important for people to participate not only in the donating of coats and clothing but also to participate in receiving the jackets," she added. "This will help them be able to provide other items their kids need."
For more information on the Coat and Clothing Drive, contact Stevens at KJ@usometro.org or call (571) 267-2082 or visit the Heidi's Pantry -- Fort Belvoir Facebook page.
One Warm Coat is a national non-profit organization that helps other humanitarian groups and organizations collect and distribute coats to people in need. For more information, visit http://onewarmcoat.org.