After more than two decades of cleaning Whatcom closets, they continue to help others

Do you have coats, hats, gloves and other new or gently used outerwear sitting unused in your closet?

Give them to others who need them during Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County’s annual Winter Warmth Drive.

You can donate clean, warm clothing now at all Banner Bank branches in Whatcom County, the Interfaith office at 910 14th St. in Bellingham, and participating congregations.

United Church of Ferndale is one of those congregations.

“We are mandated to love our neighbors as ourselves, so reaching out in compassion to our neighbors who might need a warm coat is just a given. It’s what we do,” Pastor Bobbi Virta said of the church’s long-standing participation.

The coat drive started in 1997, and at least 3,000 coats are given out each year to adults and children in Whatcom County.

The clothing will be distributed in Bellingham, Blaine, Deming and Ferndale in October.

United Church of Ferndale has been hosting the drive for years in its city.

Volunteers set up the space so it feels more like walking into a coat store. There are hosts at the door who meet people, ask them what they need and then guide them to it.

And, on their way out, people are given a cup of warm cider.

It’s about trying to make the event “warm and inviting and helpful” to those who come for warm clothing, Virta said.

Thinking about donating?

Virta said coats for small children and hoodies for teens are always in demand.

Ferndale-area resident Marta Hand, who also is a member of the church, said that women’s extra-large sizes also are needed.

Other than your closet, thrift stores or consignment stores are good places to find warm clothing, Hand said.

Hand has been taking part in the coat drive for eight to 10 years.

For her, it’s about seeing people pick out just the right coat for them or their family, and the smile on children’s faces.

Given the icy, snowy and windy weather that’s been part of Whatcom County’s winter, Virta said, “It’s nice to know that we’ve done something, even if it’s little, just something to be able to help.”

Interfaith Coalition is made up of 53 churches, a synagogue and other organizations working together to end family homelessness in Whatcom County.

Additional information is at Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County at 360-734-3983 and interfaith-coalition.org.

Need a coat?

Winter wear will be distributed for free in October in the following places:

Ferndale: United Church of Ferndale, 2034 Washington St., on Wednesday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Oct. 12 — from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bellingham: Assumption Church Gym, 2116 Cornwall Ave., on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Blaine: Unit 200 Cost Cutter shopping center, 1733 H St., on Monday, Oct. 14, Tuesday, Oct. 15, and Friday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Deming: Foothills Food Bank, in St. Peter Catholic Church, 6210 Mount Baker Highway in Deming, Tuesday, Oct. 29, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

If you want to donate, the deadlines for drop-off sites in each city are:

Bellingham, Oct. 17.

Ferndale, Oct. 7 and 8.

Blaine, Oct. 12.

Deming, Oct. 27.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.