WILLIAMSTOWN — Cold weather is prompting folks to pull out their winter coats. But some don't have any stowed away.
So, again this year, two local groups are gathering coats to provide winter warmth to friends, neighbors and strangers in need.
The Williamstown Council on Aging and the Northern Berkshire EMS are gathering up as many winter coats as they can and distributing them to anyone facing freezing temperatures with no protective gear.
"Some folks don't realize it, but there are people who don't have coats. And they really need coats because the winters really get frigid here," said Brian O'Grady, director of the Council on Aging in Williamstown. "Just yesterday I had someone call in and said they didn't have a winter coat — it's always an issue."
The effort usually gathers and places more than 100 coats every winter.
According to Angela Swistak, director of Northern Berkshire Transport and an EMT with Northern Berkshire EMS, the program has been going for nearly 10 years.
People can drop off unneeded coats and jackets for distribution at the North Adams or Williamstown locations of the Northern Berkshire EMS, or at the Williamstown Council On Aging in the Harper Center. Coats are accepted through Jan. 31.
Swistak said that when Northern Berkshire Transport is sent on a medical transport call, or the Northern Berkshire EMS is on a call, workers occasionally encounter people who do not have winter gear. When that happens, they are provided with a coat.
Staff also take the coats to the Berkshire Community Action Council for distribution. The BCAC frequently aids people by referring them to agencies for help or processing applications for heating aid — putting the agency in contact with people who might not have access to winter clothing.
"We get everything," Swistak said. "New, gently used, kids coats, coats for the elderly, men's, women's — and when we see someone that does not have a coat, we bring them one."
She recalls one incident last year.
"We went out and bought a new coat, hats and gloves for a woman in a nursing home we were transporting to dialysis three times a week," Swistak said. "She didn't have anything to keep her warm, so we took care of that for her."
"We get winter coats from all sorts of people, and give them out to all sorts," O'Grady said. "Some people go out and buy new coats just to donate to the drive. Anyone who has a new or gently used coat and doesn't have a use for it, we are happy to pass it along to somebody who does."
"It gives people a sense of pride — they're proud to help somebody else," Swistak said.
Scott Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-629-4517.