LIVINGSTON, NJ - What started out as the 3rd Annual Livingston Holiday Coat Drive, with the mission of ‘providing warmth to the poor, homeless and disenfranchised,’ by Livingston resident, Jeff Friedman a.k.a ‘The Coat Guy,’ has now morphed into an ongoing collection for the needy.
In 2013, residents from Livingston, the Caldwells and Montclair helped shatter last year’s record of 760 to coats, by collecting and distributing over 1000 coats and winter accessories for the 2013 drive. To achieve this feat, Friedman was assisted by numerous people including Caldwell resident Rick Levin, and Livingston residents Adam Slavitt, Bob Gebroe, Danny Weidner and Linda Clark.
“In 2012, we collected and distributed 760 coats and I thought that was a lot,” said Friedman. “In 2013, we have collected over 1,000 coats so far—breaking our own record, and due to the outpouring generosity of the donors, I have decided to keep the collection ongoing.”
Local residents are encouraged to continue dropping off new or gently used men’s, women’s and children’s coats, jackets, gloves and hats to the following sites: The West Essex Tribune, 495 South Livingston Ave.; and the Village Laundry Center, 213 Bellevue Ave. in Montclair.
New customers who bring in coats for donation to the Village Laundry Center, which is owned by Livingston residents Wendy and Adam Slavitt, who is president of the Livingston Football Parents' Association, will receive $10 off certificates for any cleaning orders to be handled there.
To arrange for pickups, Livingston residents may email Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org, and residents in the Caldwells should contact Rick Levin at email@example.com. Montclair residents should drop off items at the Village Laundry Center. Anyone interested in helping with pickups and deliveries or in becoming an additional donation site should contact Friedman as well.
“It’s important to note that whether folks donate one or 100 coats, they are delivered very quickly to families who need them the most,” said Friedman. “It’s not unusual for distribution to occur within just a few days from pick-up or drop-off.”
The first collections of coats and accessories in 2013 were distributed to the following distribution sites, which also participated last year: Freedom Industries, which is located on South Orange Avenue in Newark; IFS Independence: A Family of Services, Inc., which works with high-risk youth and families; Offenders Aid and Restoration of Essex County (OAR), which serves over 1,000 formerly incarcerated adults each year with counseling to them and their families to help stop the cycle of crime; the United Missionary Baptist Church in East Orange; and the Jersey City Seventh Day Adventist Church in Jersey City.
However, a few days prior to Christmas 2013, Friedman and the Livingston Coat Drive had a dilemma—they had collected even more donated items and needed to arrange for an additional distribution partner or more.
They solved the problem by distributing an additional 100 coats and multiple bags of hats, gloves and scarves to the North Reformed Church & Food Pantry, which is located in downtown Newark, where Rev. Randy Van Doornik and his family serve their congregation and the poor.
“The church works with the Bessie Green Community, Inc., a non-profit organization, ‘to provide help for individuals and families through food and clothing distribution, counseling and job training,’” said Friedman.
However, by Christmas Eve day, there were even more items collected and awaiting pick-up and Friedman again wondered how and where to deliver the items.
“I realized the coat mound was again building up quickly, only days after other major deliveries had already been made to those most in need,” said Friedman. “So many generous families had donated so much in just a few days and I needed to figure out how to once again get the items from the collection sites and find additional distribution sites for the deliveries.”
Friedman said that longtime Livingston resident Danny Weidner, owner of Cougar Landscaping, stepped-up to help by offering one of his trucks to get the job done.
“We made a successful Christmas Eve delivery to new distribution partner, Willing Hearts Community Center & Food Pantry in Newark, an outreach of the Metropolitan Baptist Church and the Rev. Dr. David Jefferson,” said Friedman. “Willing Hearts was able to not only serve a holiday dinner to the homeless and hungry on Christmas Eve—it was able to distribute over 168 warm coats and additional winter accessories from the Coat Drive.”
“This is just another example of Livingston and local residents making unsolicited contributions of their time and energy to the Livingston Coat Drive,” said Friedman.
The items are still being donated and Friedman says as long as they keep coming, he is up to the task of continuing to deliver them to those in need.
“Now the real work commences,” said Friedman. “The holidays are over and most of us are back to life as usual. That includes the lives of those living in a cold, unforgiving world so near to cozy Livingston and surrounding towns. Coats and accessories are still needed right now for those less fortunate than most of us. The end of the holiday season does not mean the end of giving season…or the end of the coat drive. We have three more freezing months to come, so I am encouraging folks to continue donating their gently used and new coats and accessories.”
“It’s only getting colder and lots of inclement weather is predicted,” said Friedman. “These needs are local and very real. My hope is that our residents will continue to be generous as they enjoy the warmth of the holiday season.”
"Friedman said he is now getting calls expressing interest from out of state. Anyone interested in pointing Friedman toward local distribution places, or in volunteering as a collection site or as a deliverer, should email Friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org."