By Lana Bradstream, Times Republican
Mother Nature has been generous so far this fall. Colder temperatures have not yet fallen on Marshalltown, but they are right around the corner. The cold Iowa winters can be harsh for residents, especially ones who do not have adequate coats.
To help combat the harshness, a Coats for the Community giveaway will be held Saturday. Located in the former McFarland Clinic parking lot at 312 E. Main St., the giveaway will take place under a tent with United Cajun Navy written on it. Mosaic church is a partner in the event.
The event is organized by Marshalltown resident Jake Rowley, the midwest team leader for United Cajun Navy (UCN), a nonprofit based in Baton Rouge, La. The giveaway will bring in a semi-load of more than 7,500 brand new winter coats.
“I think Marshalltown has (had) financial struggles, especially recently,” he said. “A lot of people, even if they have a good job, are not making ends meet like they were. It is important to show the community that businesses they support every day are supporting them.”
Businesses serving as sponsors for the giveaway are Brothers Garage, Exterior + Home Remodeling, First Interstate Bank, Hogeland Auto Plaza, Junk Relief, Marshall BWS, Minuteman Printing and Graphics, Premier Real Estate, Sletten Management, State Farm Insurance agent Tyler Peschong and UnityPoint. Rowley said each sponsor donated $1,000, which helped make the giveaway possible.
The donations did not purchase the coats, which are being supplied by UCN. Rather, the donations helped cover the other expenses, such as transportation.
“There will be 26 pallets of coats in the semi,” Rowley said. “Anybody and everybody who wants a coat can get a coat. There are no income requirements. We want to get these to the community.”
He stressed people who want a coat, of which there will be a mixed variety, need to be there. There may be a limited number of sizes and colors. Rowley cannot guarantee everyone will get the desired size or color.
“If you have a big family, get there early,” he said. “It is important for the people who need a coat to come get it.”
Rowley is confident the giveaway will not completely run out of coats. If they do, he said that is a beautiful thing because it means people from outside Marshalltown came to get a coat, as well.
If the coat giveaway works well, Rowley said they will hold one every year.
“If we have the sponsors and the ability, we will do it again,” he said. “The goal is to repeat it next season. If this goes smoothly, we have access to supplies. It may be the start of something else.”
Rowley, a longtime volunteer for UCN, said this is the first time the nonprofit has sponsored an event in Marshalltown. UCN President Todd Terrell said they are doing the giveaway as a way to return the favor for the donations they have received from the Marshalltown community.
“Jake has been a good volunteer for many years,” he said. “This is a way for us to help out up there, and give back to the community.”
Terrell said the coat giveaway is not going to be an example of a “one and done.” There is a possibility of a UCN chapter beginning in Marshalltown.
“We want to do more,” he said. “The government can only do so much. It takes people like us to help. We want to pay it forward, especially with the youth of today.”
While UCN typically helps with disaster relief, Terrell said they also assist people who are homeless, and place focus on grandparents raising their grandchildren.
“Grandparents have fixed incomes,” he said. “They have no money for themselves, and we want to be able to make sure they are warm for the year.”
Location: Former McFarland Clinic parking lot, 312 E. Main St.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 11
Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.