Lauren Balkcum, director of the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce, explained that the group is planning a Chamber Coat Closet to help provide warmth to the many without this winter.
“We wanted to do a signature project,” said Balkcum, and providing coats seemed like a compassionate approach to fulfilling a need.
According to Sherri Smith, a Chamber Coat Closet committee member, the idea was initiated by current president Jeff Shipp.
“He wanted to do something that would benefit everybody,” Smith noted.
Originally, Smith stated that the group brainstormed ideas of how they wanted to help others, and they decided on this project since they felt there were not many known coat drives in the area. Also, after talking with fellow Chamber members and representatives from the Crisis Center, the Department of Social Services and the Partnership for Children, it became clear the need was great for such items.
With the mission of helping others at the forefront, committee members have made it their goal to collect as many new or gently used coats as they can, and, in turn, provide them to all in need.
The group will place boxes at locations throughout Sampson County over the next month in hopes that as many people as possible will drop off coats through the month of November.
“We want to receive them in November and dispense them in December,” said Greg Thornton, Chamber of Commerce coat committee member.
Currently, the group has 20 locations lined up to be dropoff sites, including First Citizens Bank, Patriot State Bank, BB&T, GO Automotive, Sampson County Partnership for Children, The Learning Station, Coharie Country Club, Lakewood Country Club, Timberlake Golf LLC., Sandy Ridge Country Club, Spivey’s Corner Fire Department, all the town halls in Sampson County, the Turkey Fire Department, South River Electric Membership Cooperative, Liberty Hospice and N.C. Justice Academy.
In addition to getting ready to receive coats, the group also plans a kickoff event at the City Market in Clinton from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. on Nov. 1.
Once the coats are collected, they will be stored and cleaned if necessary.
Balkcum noted that Ideal Cleaners has volunteered to help with the project. After the cleaning, the coats will be stored in a closet and dispersed to the DSS, the Partnership for Children and the Sampson County Crisis Center.
In addition to coats, the group will also accept some accessories for coats, including gloves and scarfs, but they point out that the focus will continue to be on coats.
The group also stressed that the need is for more than just children’s coats.
“We hope to get coats for everyone from infants to adults,” said Smith.
Since this is the first time the group has ever tried to have a coat drive, they say that there is no telling how many will actually be donated, but if someone does not have a coat to spare, they will accept monetary gifts as well. In fact, the group has established sponsorships where a person’s name will be listed on all advertising for the drive and on all of the bins throughout Sampson County.
“All of this money will be used toward the success of the project,” said Thornton.
The Chamber has set up three different levels of sponsorship, starting with a Button sponsor for people who donate $100; Zipper sponsors are those who donate $300 and a Belt sponsor for those donating $500.
While these are designated sponsorship levels, smaller amounts are also appreciated by the group in their mission to provide warmth to all.
For more information or to donate to the Clinton-Sampson’s Chamber of Commerce’s Coat Closet, please call 592-6177 or email to email@example.com.
Katie Holland can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 136, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.