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Cottage Grove-based 'Coats of Kindness' sees record donations

Eric Wenzel (center) gets help loading bags of coats from Kevin Lovegreen (left) and Joe Fischer as they and other volunteers prepared to deliver Coats of Kindness donations to area thrift stores and shelters. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)

Eric and Karen Wenzel are awash in gifts for others this time of year.

The Wenzels’ Coats of Kindness campaign to collect and donate winter coats and clothing to the needy keeps growing. Wrapping up its fourth year, the Cottage Grove couple expects Coats of Kindness to see a record donation of jackets this year.

With more than 60 donation sites around the Twin Cities, they collected new or gently used coats and also boots, snow pants, hats and mittens. The drive officially ended Dec. 14.

The Wenzels get a big assist from volunteers who help sort donated items and from Cottage Grove-based Werner Electric, which agreed this year to use its freight trucks to distribute the pallets of clothing to shops, schools and shelters around the Twin Cities.

Last Friday, they used a conference room at Werner Electric’s headquarters to bag and sort clothing that was then distributed to nine area thrift shops or shelters, including Stone Soup in St. Paul Park and the Christian Cupboard in Woodbury.

Coats of Kindness will donate up to 300 coats just at Stone Soup Thrift Shop in St. Paul Park.

Earlier this month the nonprofit took part in an event at Hope for the Journey House, a shelter based at Guardian Angels church in Oakdale. People in need of food and winter clothing found both at the church that evening.

“It’s nice to have these events because it’s important to be on that side of it,” Karen Wenzel said. “The reward is giving it away.”

Last year’s effort resulted in 2,000 coats being donated to those in need.

The Wenzels started Coats of Kindness after they received a charity challenge at their church, All Saints Lutheran in Cottage Grove. Eric had been in a long recovery from a near-death fight against colon cancer and their two children were given $50 at church to do something good for others. The family launched Coats of Kindness.

The effort now reaches beyond the Minnesota border. Eric said they have added drop locations in Iowa City, Iowa, where his former co-worker lives. Iowa City school children receive those donations.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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