Winter is coming, and that means people everywhere will be digging out their warm coats to help battle the freezing temperatures.

But not everybody is lucky enough to have a warm coat, which is why the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties is holding its annual coat drive.

“We are collecting from Oct. 1-15 any warm winter coats, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, boots, you name it, for kids, men, women. All sizes are needed,” said program coordinator Leah Wolkow. “We prefer that they come warm, washed and have working zippers, that’s kind of our

three W’s this year.”

Wolkow said the drive is going well, with donations already coming in, but there are some items they are looking for specifically.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“Almost every year I can tell you we are in need of men’s coats,” she said. “We seem to get quite a few women’s coats, quite a few kids coats, but we could always use more of everything, but really a targeted ask for those men’s coats.

“If guys have jackets around that they’re not wearing, even hunting coats that are nice and warm, we’ll take those. We always seem to have a little bit of a lack in the larger sizes. We need those and we don’t get a lot of those,” she said.

Following the collection of all the items, distribution will take place on Oct. 21-22, and Oct. 25-29. Office hours will be extended from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on those days.

“Anyone who is in need of warm winter gear can come into our office,” Wolkow said. “They can select one of anything that we have available. A pair of boots, a pair of mittens, a hat, a scarf, a coat, for everyone in their household, so it’s not just one set of gear per family. Everyone in the family can come into our back room and shop, so to say, from our selection, and hopefully we can find something that works for them.”

The coat drive is being done through a new process this year, Wolkow said.

“Typically our coatroom was open year-round,” she said. “We are doing more of a targeted drive and distribution this year to really increase the quality and quantity and variety that we have for people to come and choose from. We’re also hoping to use our back room for some more community impact programs and volunteer opportunities. We don’t have the storage to keep them year round now, so that’s why (there was) the change to this targeted drive and distribution.”

The drive fills a definite need in the community, Wolkow said. “I don’t think they’re ever not busy,” she said. “We’re already getting calls to ask when our drive starts, when our distribution

starts. We don’t have any qualifying factors for this drive, so anyone can come and get it, but it’s definitely utilized.”

Wolkow also encouraged as many community members to get involved and donate as possible during the United Way’s regular office hours of 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“Businesses can collect, individuals can collect, anyone can collect coats and bring them in by the 15th and we’ll get them out to people who can use them,” she said.

For more information, visit https://uwdp.org/what-we-do/coat-room.html.