Ypsi-area organizations band together to keep vulnerable residents warm

The Ypsilanti area is a generous place, with many organizations collecting hats, coats, gloves, socks, and other warm clothing every year during the holidays as cold weather sets in.

For instance, the Secret Santa Society of Ypsilanti is taking donations of new coats at the Michigan Firehouse Museum, 110 W. Cross St. in Ypsilanti, every Friday through Sunday in December.

The warm clothing collected could help a refugee from another country, a new resident of Ypsilanti who moved from a southern climate and doesn't have a warm coat, or a child whose family doesn't make enough money to buy them new boots. 

"It really is a group effort, from the schools to Warm the Children to churches and the House by Side of the Road. It's all about everybody doing their bit," says Kathy Wyatt, executive analyst and assistant to the sheriff at the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office (WCSO). 

Wyatt says there are a lot of reasons someone might lack warm clothing and have difficulty affording it. That could lead to missing an important medical appointment because you're not properly dressed to ride public transit in the middle of a snowfall.

That was a story Wyatt heard from a woman who benefited from a coat drive sponsored by Charles Reinhart Realty. Wyatt says Reinhart always collects huge amounts of coats through drop-off bins in every Washtenaw County Reinhart office.

"I got an email from her that weekend that it turned out okay, but without that coat, she wouldn't have been able to get out to the doctor," Wyatt says. 

Wyatt keeps an email list of organizations that run clothing drives or offer warm clothing to the community. Email list participants, from churches to the Ypsilanti Senior Center, can put out a call to others on the list asking for particular sizes or types of coats, or offering up unneeded items.

The Ann Arbor Board of Realtors puts a spin on the tradition with "Socktoberfest." Rather than focusing on coats, they collect warm socks and a few gloves and hats. Last year, they donated those socks to organizations that included SafeHouse Center and the WCSO, which also has its own stash of warm clothes. Wyatt says the sheriff's office makes sure anyone released from jail in the winter has appropriate warm clothing.

The organizations on Wyatt's email list are from all over the county but include many Ypsilanti-based organizations, including Peace Neighborhood Center, Underdawg Nation, Berea City of Hope, Second Baptist Church, Ypsilanti Community Schools, the Community Family Life Center, and Emmanuel Lutheran Church. 

Wyatt says that any organization who would like to be added to the email list of local organizations collecting or offering warm clothing can reach her at wyattk@washtenaw.org.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo by Doug Coombe.
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