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Drive collects many coats

Organizers of the annual coat drive said more than 500 different winter items were collected for needy families. Shown with the collected items are, left to right, Rick Ragan, owner of Five Points Dry Cleaners; Ronnie Burke, coordinator for Decatur County Family Connection; Allison Harrell, board chairman for Family Connection; and Allison Godwin, assistant controller for Southwest Georgia Farm Credit.|Justin Schuver

Thanks to the warm generosity of Decatur County citizens, hundreds of people in the community will now have a warm coat for the winter.

The third annual coat drive, a joint venture between Southwest Georgia Farm Credit and Decatur County Family Connection, collected about 500 coats and other winter articles of clothing for needy citizens in Decatur County. Several local businesses and countless volunteers also combined to make the effort a success, by providing items, volunteers or space for drop-off boxes.

The event began three years ago when Sue Steiner, a volunteer with Family Connection, spearheaded the idea to hold a winter clothing drive to help people during the colder months.

“We see it as a way that we can give back to the community,” said Allison Godwin, assistant controller for Farm Credit.

The drive helps meet the needs of people in all 21 counties in Farm Credit’s service area, said Liz Nogowski, director of marketing at Farm Credit. Each county office partners with its local Family Connection office, which then distributes the items to those in need.

“Without the effort of a lot of people and our many business partners, we wouldn’t be able to get these coats to the people who need them,” Nogowski said.

One of those business partners is Five Points Dry Cleaners on Scott Street, which cleans and sterilizes all the collected items.

“We enjoy teaming up with this project, because we know there’s a need out there,” said Rick Ragan, owner of Five Points Dry Cleaners. “Because of Family Connection’s work, we know that these items are going straight to the people who need them.”

On Friday morning, Godwin, Nogowski, Ragan, Family Connection coordinator Ronnie Burke and Family Connection board chairman Allison Harrell helped load the more than 500 items into vans, which will be used to help distribute them. Burke said some of the coats will be distributed by the schools and housing authority, while others will be simply given out as soon as a need is spotted.

“We’ll ride around town and if we see somebody who looks like they’re cold, we’ll be able to stop and give them one of the coats,” Burke said. “This truly is an awesome community effort.”

Harrell said Family Connection especially appreciates Five Points Dry Cleaners’ contribution to the project.

“It’s wonderful to be able to give these people an item of clothing that we know has been cleaned and made like new,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to give them anything that I wouldn’t be willing to wear myself.”