Coat Drive Ensured Refugees Had a Warm Welcome

Contributed By Kristine Lurz, Church News contributor

  • 14 March 2017

Members from the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees on December 17.  Photo courtesy of Kristine Lurz.

Article Highlights

  • The members of the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees.
  • Hundreds of donations were received and delivered to 370 refugees.

A service project that started out to warm the bodies and hearts of newly resettled refugees ended up warming the hearts and lives of all involved.

Having a warm coat and appropriate winter gear is something that most people don’t think twice about. But if you are a newly resettled refugee relocated from a desert climate to Cleveland, Ohio, preparing for the bitter cold of winter may not be something that comes naturally or that you have funds for.

Members of the Cleveland Ohio Stake learned this fact while volunteering at a local refugee resettlement center in Cleveland that they found through JustServe.org. After seeing many newly resettled individuals and families without sufficient gear for the cold weather, members of the stake jumped into action to help their new neighbors not only stay warm this winter but also feel welcome and remembered.

Led by the Relief Society sisters, the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees in partnership with the USCRI–Cleveland field office (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants).

In mid-November, collection boxes were distributed to the ward buildings for donations of hats, gloves, scarves, blankets, and coats. Donations of new and gently used items poured in—so many that an unscheduled collection pick-up was needed halfway through the donation period that ended mid-December. 

Members from the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees on December 17. Photo courtesy of Jared Olsen.

Members from the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees on December 17. Photo courtesy of Anne Bodily.

On December 17 the stake center gym was filled with the remaining donations. Alongside workers from the USCRI, members and nonmembers sorted cold weather items for individuals and families in need.

With donations from the community, Church members, Coats for Kids, and the Church’s humanitarian department, over 875 winter coats, 500 lightweight jackets, and 168 blankets, as well as over 1,600 hats, gloves, and scarves combined were collected.

On the day of the service project, many of these items were immediately distributed to volunteers and delivered to families.

Though most refugee families spoke little to no English, they welcomed volunteers into their homes, many insisting on cooking them meals or doing something to repay them for their kindness. Many volunteers made a strong connection with those they met and have since returned to visit, share a meal, and have their children play together.

Members served over 340 volunteer hours on this project and met the needs of over 58 families, totaling 370 individuals. Volunteers at the USCRI organized the remaining items to meet future needs, including the needs of over 450 new refugees expected to resettle in Cleveland in 2017.

Members from the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees on December 17. Photo courtesy of Jared Olsen.

Members from the Cleveland Ohio Stake put on the Warm Welcome Coat and Blanket Drive for local refugees on December 17. Photo courtesy of Kristine Lurz.