Northsider organizes coat drive during holidays to help homeless, less fortunate stay warm
More than one thousand Mississippians were without a home in 2017, and approximately 59 percent of those people were staying in an unsheltered location, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
One Northsider is working to help the homeless in the Jackson metro stay warm this holiday season.
Allison Nooe started a massive coat drive, Operation Warmup, about five years ago.
Nooe puts out large cardboard boxes at coffee shops and stores around town. Through social media and events, she lets people know where the boxes will be located and the deadline to donate.
“People can drop off anything to help keep people warm, like gloves, hats, jackets, scarves,” she said.
When the deadline nears, Nooe and a crew of volunteers hand out the clothing at Stewpot around Christmas time.
This year, she’s planning for New Year’s Day to be the drop off day. This will be the fifth year she has organized the drive.
It began when she was getting ready for finals while in college. She was thinking back on a trip she took to Atlanta for New Year’s Eve.
“There were homeless people everywhere,” she said. “We went downtown to watch the peach drop. So, I remember we were literally stepping over homeless people when we were leaving.”
The first year, a team took some of the coats up to Atlanta and a team stayed local and passed out the supplies at Stewpot.
Now, Operation Warmup is a strictly local project.
She puts the boxes out the week of Thanksgiving, so that people have the chance to leave donations while they are out Black Friday shopping.
“We keep them out throughout Thanksgiving until a couple of days before we hand them out,” she said.
Each year, she places boxes at six to eight locations throughout the area.
They get hundreds of donations each year, but Nooe said they need more of a selection of plus size options.
“We usually get a lot of coats and things in regular size, which is great,” she said.
But they have found that there is a lot of need for sizes extra-large and above.
“They like to layer,” she said. “Also, we need more things to keep heads and hands warm. Gloves and hats are always a big need. We run out of those fast.”
Gloves are always the first thing to go. Nooe said they need larger size gloves as well.
The donations are organized by size. Following the meal, volunteers help those who attend find what pieces they need in the right size.
“We let them take until it’s gone,” she said.
Last year was the first year she had leftovers since the response for donations was so great. They left the extra clothing with Stewpot since they have many people come in need of those items.
“They always have a need for things like that,” she said.
The number of donations grows every year.
“What’s been amazing is even years I’ve considered not going it because of my schedule, I have people start contacting me in early November asking about it,” she said. “It’s kind of one of those things where it’s like the Lord telling me to keep going, because it just brings so much joy to everyone involved.”
This year, she is working with a group called Love Above All. The group will help with the distribution of the clothing this year.
“The holidays can be such a lonely time for a lot of people,” she said. “This is one way that I’ve been able to interact with a lot of people. So, I think it’s also helped with some of that loneliness. It’s been so much fun every year, and I’m always surprised at how much joy it brings.”
For more information about the project and to keep up with the location of the boxes, follow the Operation Warmup Facebook page.