SMARM provides coats to locals

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 12:25 AM

Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministry (SMARM) held its 12th annual Winter Coat Day on Saturday to provide warmth to families in need this season.

"We feel like we're giving to the community and assisting folks that maybe are less fortunate, might not have a warm winter coat, and maybe couldn't afford one," said Dick Wellons, director of SMARM. "Particularly this time of year, it's important that we show the true meaning of Christmas."

But with the sunlight spilling onto the parking lot near Treasures from the Heart thrift store, it didn't feel like Sevier County was quite ready for winter or coats.

"Unfortunately a lot of folks don't think about getting a coat until it's cold," Wellons said. "Then when it does turn cold, they say, 'I should have gotten one of those coats when it was warm.'"

Wellons said the first year the ministry held coat day, "we were at the fair grounds, and we used the fence along the parking areas to hang the coats, and it was probably in the teens and 20s." He said they've been through sleet and snow in past years, and Wellons said bad weather is actually good for Winter Coat Day.

But despite Saturday's warm weather, hundreds of people with enough foresight filtered in and out of the parking lot to get winter coats.

"We've had a pretty steady crowd all morning," Wellons said. "We've had a great turnout and a lot of our volunteers have been here all morning."

Wellons said they'd given away at least a thousand coats, which were mostly donated by individuals and churches. Any leftover coats will be given to various church groups.

"Some coats will possibly go out of state because we give them to some mission groups that take them to less fortunate areas in the Appalachian region," Wellons said. "And we'll keep a few coats here for folks as they come through. We provide clothing, coats, work uniforms, school clothes, that kind of thing year-round for folks that come in and say they need it."

Volunteers from various organizations helped out with the event, even providing snacks and other items to give away besides coats.

"Whenever Christians meet, they have to eat," Wellons said. "I don't know why, that must be part of it."

rhargett@themountainpress.com