The season of giving has arrived, and some of the homeless in New York City are already the recipients.
New York Cares officially kicked off its 29th annual coat drive on Tuesday by giving coats to around 50 homeless people at the Bowery Mission between Prince St. and Rivington St. in lower Manhattan.
A normally drab meeting space had been transformed into an open dressing room with mirrors set up and coats sorted by size and sex. Many were brand new. Others were barely worn. All were in excellent condition.
Kewan Mcmuzorn, 41, looked through the options and pulled out a stylish blue coat that was slim on his athletic frame. “The coat drive is something really special in a way,” he said, “because there’s a lot of people that don’t have coats and also a lot of other things.”
As Mcmuzorn looked at himself in the mirror, he smiled broadly. “When you give someone a coat and a hot meal, it makes them feel special, very special,” he said.
Another recipient, Elvis Galvan, 37, selected a fluffier blue coat, which still had a yellow tag on the collar. “The coat will keep myself warm, it will help me physically and emotionally,” said Galvan, who came downtown from a shelter on 115th Street to volunteer for the day. “I came, and they asked if I wanted to be one of the first ones to grab a jacket.”
Most of the coats were donated by Bloomberg Philanthropies and by individuals who gave through the New York Cares text-to-give program. Donors text “COAT” to 41444 and give any amount they choose. Donors can also bring lightly worn coats to pickup spots around the city.
At the Bowery Mission on Tuesday, volunteers were sorting coats by sex and size and bagging up winterwear to be distributed at over 550 nonprofits and schools that have requested coats for giveaway. Coats will also be available at walk-in locations around the city.
“Every year the need increases way beyond that we can fulfill,” said Erica Lockwood, 29, the director of marketing and communications at New York Cares. “That is why we set out our goal for 125,000. Last year we collected a little over 109,000 coats. We are really trying to up it every year.”
The higher goal matches the growing number of homeless in the city. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit advocacy organization, the number of New Yorkers in city shelters has gone up nearly 75 percent in the past 10 years, reaching the highest level since the 1930s Great Depression.
Some 60,000 individuals were sleeping in shelters in mid-November, according to the Department of Homeless Services. Families with children make up about 70 percent of the shelter population, according to the department’s data.
“I was one of those kids coming up, said John Wallace, 43, a former forward for the New York Knicks who spoke at the Mission on Tuesday. “Sometimes I didn’t have a coat, so, I was always trying to layer up and put socks on my hands. Being part of the coat drive today was awesome.”