NEW YORK—A group of volunteers were still busy on Christmas day, handing out winter coats to the homeless and needy.
More than a 100 people lined up outside at the New York City Rescue Mission in Lower Manhattan early Christmas morning, eager to receive warm coats.
One of these people was Leroy Mace, an unemployed Christian hip hop artist. Mace used to be a teacher, but he was laid off. When asked about the coat drive, he broke down in tears.
“I’m really grateful because I’m overcoming homelessness,” said Mace. “I was able to get a nice quality leather coat, new, and also some cashmere coats that I can use so I can professionally seek employment.”
The distribution of these coats is part of the 25th Annual New York Cares Coat Drive, which was launched in November and will continue until the beginning of February.
This year’s coat drive was especially difficult. Donations are down by almost 35 percent from a typical year and the demand is up by almost 25 percent.
“This year, we’re seeing an unprecedented increase in the number of requests,” Gary Bagley, Executive Director of New York Cares. “So far we have requests for 102,000 coats.”
Bagley attributed the rise in requests to the increasing homeless and shelter population. In addition, there is still demand from residents in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, who may not have fully recovered.
As for the decline in donations, Bagley deduced that New Yorkers may have run out of coats to donate because many donated during last year’s coat drive, which was right after Hurricane Sandy.
“We think people may have been especially aware of the need after the hurricane, perhaps they gave us a coat a year sooner than they normally would have,” he said.
Still, Bagley encourages New Yorkers to donate more coats, especially children’s coats, which are always in demand. Without a warm coat, many children from low income families may not be able to make it to school on a freezing winter day, he added.
New Yorkers can donate coats at many sites around the city including every police precinct, every library branch in the Queens Public Library System, Penn Station, etc. These coats will then be counted, sorted, and distributed by New York Cares to various organizations serving the homeless and low-income people.
“It is definitely helpful, it puts hope in hearts of folks who are in need,” said Mace.
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.