Another of autumn’s traditions – as reliable as leaf peeping and voting – arrives Sunday, November 4 with the opening of Wilton’s annual coat drive. The drive will be held at the Wilton Congregational Church and will run through Tuesday, November 6. Gently used coats, linens, bedding, and sleeping bags will be collected and delivered to neighbors in need.
The drive has a long history in Wilton. It began nearly 50 years ago when women in town learned that children in Alabama weren’t able to go to school because they didn’t own shoes. Eventually, shipping donations to the south became too expensive, and the needs of Fairfield County residents became apparent.
Four years ago, members of Wilton Congregational Church began organizing the drive. The project is important to the church, according to the Reverend Suzanne Wagner, the church’s interim minister. “This effort is a true reflection of the mission of Wilton Congregational Church,” she said, “and we have been very grateful to the community for responding so generously. It shows the heart and soul of Wilton in their concern for their neighbors in need."
The final day of the drive is Election Day, when school is not in session. Typically more than two dozen adult and teen volunteers work together to sort, pack and load the donations into the truck. “We couldn’t get this job done without their energy and enthusiasm!” said Rev. Wagner.
The donations are divided into two categories: those requested by Wilton families through Wilton Social Services, and those delivered to the Community Closet of Bridgeport. Nearly 4,000 clients depend on the Community Closet, including victims of domestic violence and fire, as well as new immigrants. The organization has come to depend on Wilton every fall.
While spearheaded by the church, the drive relies on the altruism of many others. Last year Wilton residents donated approximately 500 coats, 75 blankets and 200 sets of sheets and towels. Will Joyce, of Joyce Van Lines in Oxford, Connecticut, generously loans the drive a truck and driver to transport everything to Bridgeport.
Wilton Congregational Church is located at 70 Ridgefield Road, Wilton. Donations will be accepted on Sunday, November 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday, November 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesday, November 6 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, or to volunteer, call Genevieve Eason at 203-761-9199.