FREEPORT

Coats for Seniors donations will be received at L.L.Bean’s Northern Lights Celebration. For every coat collected, L.L.Bean will donate $5 to the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging for fuel assistance. L.L.Bean is a major donation site for the Coats for Seniors project, sponsored by the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging. The project, now in its 10th year, collects gently used, clean coats for older adults in need. As a project partner since the project’s beginning, L.L.Bean will set up a collection booth for coats at its flagship store in Freeport during the first weekend of its annual Northern Lights Celebration, Friday, November 17 through Sunday, November 19. In addition, L.L.Bean will donate $5 for fuel assistance for older adults for every coat collected, up to $5,000.

“Maine winters are hard on everyone, but our senior population, many of whom are on a fixed income, deserve our special attention. With increases in home heating costs, providing warm clothing is essential for their health and well-being,” L.L.Bean’s Retail Store Events Coordinator Laurie Gilman said.

Customers can drop off their donated coats at the Coats for Seniors booth inside the lobby near the Bean Boot. Volunteers will be at the booth on Friday, Nov. 17 from 4-8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For a complete list of collection sites, visit www.maine4a.org or call 1-877-353- 3771.

Over 10 years, the project has provided about 10,000 coats and $45,000 to provide fuel assistance to older Mainers.

The idea was the brainchild of Merrymeeting Bay TRIAD’s Betsy Cantrell, who used Coats for Kids as a model, before expanding its impact by partnering with L.L.Bean, Goodwill NNE and the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Community members donate gently used, clean winter coats during the Coats for Seniors collection period through Nov. 30 at one of 30 collection sites across the state. The coats are then dropped off at Goodwill store donation centers. In exchange Goodwill NNE gives the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging a voucher for every coat to be distributed to older Mainers needing warm coats. The vouchers allow these older adults to go to a Goodwill store and “shop” for a coat that suits them best, free of charge. In addition, L.L. Bean matches each coat collected with $5 for fuel assistance for older adults.

“Betsy and I worked on the very first coat collection. We were thrilled to set up such a unique program,” L.L.Bean Event Coordinator Laurie Gilman said in a press release.

L.L. Bean’s role has been twofold. They committed to collecting Coats for Seniors during their Northern Lights Celebration each year so that community members coming to see the lights could easily drop off extra coats from their closets. In addition, L.L. Bean’s $5 match per coat has, over the previous years, provided $45,000 in fuel assistance for older Mainers who have exhausted all other fuel assistance resources.

Goodwill NNE sees the partnership as a win-win.

“Every year we get calls from seniors in our community who set aside their pride to ask us for help surviving Maine’s harsh winter, says Kimberly Curry, Goodwill’s Coats for Seniors coordinator. “Thanks to Coats for Seniors, we’ve been able to say yes to about 10,000 people in need. Once we give a senior a coat voucher, they come into a Goodwill store and can pick any coat they’d like — that’s one of the best parts of this program; it maintains each senior’s dignity while hugging them with the warm generosity of our neighbors, L.L.Bean and partners.”

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry has been involved with the program since he became sheriff in 2004. He and the Merrymeeting Bay TRIAD have been supporters and promoters of the program over the years.

“We initiated the program because of a safety issue for older Mainers, at a time when fuel prices were high and seniors, who feel the cold more than young people, were ‘making do’ with no heat and worn-out coats.” Merry said. “Lots of people have unused coats sitting in their closets. This program is just being frugal – it is the thoughtful, appropriate thing to do to help someone else.”



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