Aiken coat drive aims to keep 3,000 people warm this season

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)-- In Aiken, one community member wants to make sure her neighbors in need have a warm winter.

"I see children waiting outside for the school bus, and they have no coats on. They have t-shirts or a hoodie on. It breaks my heart," Jeanette Fleming, event coordinator, said.

Fleming's goal is to collect 3,000 coats to make sure Aiken's seniors, children and working people do not have to struggle to keep warm this winter.

She moved to Aiken less than a year ago, but she says helping people runs deep in her blood: "This passion comes from my grandmother. If you needed a meal, she would invite you into her home. If you needed a coat, she would take a coat out of her closet and put it on your back."

Despite the cold, dozens came out Saturday to the "Winter Warm-Up Coat Drive" at The Village at Woodside in Aiken. Local artists played live music and food trucks lined the street.

Musician Bill Karp stopped by to donate coats of his own and play Jazz for the crowd. "It's a great idea because the weather is cold," Karp told us. "We have coats, but you know, some people don't."

Fleming explained this coat drive is a community effort: "All around Aiken, I mean I have had people come from North Aiken. I even had people come this morning from North Augusta to support this effort. It's just beautiful."

Mayor Rick Osbon's family dry cleaning business is washing all of the coats before they are distributed. One volunteer said he is surprised about the quality of the materials donated.

"I brought 12 coats of my own, and I tell you what, I have seen some beautiful coats out there," Travis Sullivan said.

Once all of the jackets are collected, Fleming will give them to United Way of Aiken to be distributed throughout the county.

"Take care of home. My grandmother always told me to take care of home," Fleming said. "Aiken is home, and I am going to take care of Aiken as long as I can."

If you would like to donate coats, you can drop them off at any Osbons' Cleaner location or Woodside Devellopment office in Aiken.

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