Sometimes you run into a story that needs to be told. A colleague at Luther Seminary told me about Coats of Kindness. I'm pleased to share their story with you.
Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders
Coats of Kindness
Many congregations have worked with the parable of the talents and have encouraged members to take a small amount of money and make it grow. Few results have been more spectacular than Coats of Kindness, which has grown from seed money of $50 from All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, Minn.
All Saints member Eric Wenzel was dealing with a very dire cancer diagnosis in 2009, so dire that he and his family decided to give away some of his coats. When the $50 pay it forward initiative opportunity came along, Eric, his wife, Karen and their two children decided to buy coats to give away to people who had none. A trip to a local coat store resulted in the store manager dramatically reducing the prices on the coats, and other shoppers contributing money while they stood in the checkout line. After that trip, a car full of coats was made available to people in need through a local shelter/subsidized thrift store.
In 2010, Coats of Kindness was organized as a non-profit and continued to grow collecting winterwear and cash, which is used to purchase more of the same. In 2011, over two thousand coats and over nine thousand total items were donated and distributed. Enough funds were donated that year that Coats of Kindness was able to buy almost a semi-load of hats, mittens and coats at a very low price. Specific families received coats in sizes for each member of the family—coats that still had the tags on them, which was something new for many of the children.
Coats of Kindness continues to expand its reach. Corporations have gotten on board, both by making donations and by putting drop sites at work places. One company collected enough coats this way that a truck was needed to move all of them to those in need. A grade school in Iowa collected more than one thousand items this year. A manual has been created to help people in different communities host of Coats of Kindness drive in their own areas.
When asked why she works so hard on this, Karen Wenzel said, "I don't know who would help these people if I didn't." The Wenzel children are also involved in every aspect of the work, which has led Eric and Karen to reflect on ways to help schools take Coats of Kindness on as a school project.
As Coats of Kindness continues to grow, Eric has a huge dream for the program. Eric played college football in the Big 10 Conference, and is exploring working with the Big 10 so that Saturday afternoons in the Midwest include both football and the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of fans to donate coats to those who need them most.
If you are interested in learning more about Coats of Kindness, visit their website website call Karen or Eric at 651-485-6519 or 651-485-9981, or find them on Facebook
It all started with $50. The return has been amazing.
Coats of Kindness wants to expand to new communities, including yours. If you are interested in finding more information about how this might happen, please use the links and contact information at the bottom of the article.
The story of Coats of Kindness is a contemporary story of the Parable of the Talents. Our database contains an excellent sermon on this text, written by Pastor George Haynes of Rockport, Texas.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.