New York City’s largest volunteer organization, New York Cares, hosted its 35th annual winter coat drive on Wednesday in partnership with Barclays Center to provide thousands of warm coats to New Yorkers in need.
The event was the borough’s largest single-day coat collection, which saw hundreds of New York Cares volunteers — among them, Brooklyn Nets legend Albert King — collect and sort new and gently used winter coats for distribution to partner Brooklyn Defender Services.
“Brooklynites came out in the rain, some of them had their dogs in tow, and dropped off coats,” Sapreet K. Saluja, executive director of New York Cares told Brooklyn Paper on Thursday. “The coat drive has been extended because folks are letting us know they still haven’t had a chance to drop off their coats and it did take a little while to get cold this winter, [but] so far we have collected 64,000 coats. We have a waitlist, so we need more coats.”
New York Cares is aiming to collect over 100,000 winter coats as well as raise $600,000 in donations — all to accommodate the rising need for additional aid this winter, especially amid the current cost of living crisis and a dramatic increase of asylum-seekers who may have never experienced such severe winter temperatures.
“New York is the greatest city on earth,” Saluja said, “but it also has some challenges and given economic realities and an influx of new New Yorkers who are experiencing winter for the first time. As they travel here for a better life, we know that our neighbors have needs and it can get so cold in winter and to be walking around, to be heading to school in a sweatshirt or sweater is not enough.”
While many of these economic hardships and struggles don’t have simple solutions, providing people with warm and weather appropriate clothing is something organizers with New York Cares believe they can fix.
“This one is solvable when we all come together and it has a real impact on the life of the neighbor that receives the coat,” said Saluja. “When we talk to school leaders, for example, they talk about how attendance is so difficult in the coldest months of winter when kids don’t have outerwear to get to school, both because they don’t want to be outside and because they are more likely to get sick. This is something that we can help folks with.”
Wednesday’s coat drive was an opportunity to see how New York Cares’ volunteer events have real life and real time results, Saluja said.
“There was a family, a mother and her two children who were passing by Barclays and they came in and they were limited English proficient and they asked if there was any way they could receive a coat — two of them did not have coats on,” she said. “And it was incredible to be able to take from the coats that we received and help them try them on and find one that fit well.”
And that joy went both ways, Saluja said.
“It was amazing to see both the happiness of the person who knew their coat was going to get a second life and then seeing that same coat walk out the door in its second life doing real good.”
Volunteering at New York Cares isn’t limited to its annual coat drive. The organization has dozens of other volunteer opportunities throughout New York City year-round. To learn more about the organization and how you can help, visit their website here.