In a basement on Manhattan's West 31st Street, piles of coats are sorted for men, women, children and toddlers, and eventually distributed to New Yorkers in need.
But so far this year, only about 8,500 coats have been donated for the 25th annual New York Cares drive.Around 97,000 coats have been requested by nonprofits and many could use more.
"We're down about 35 percent from where we are in a typical year," said New York Cares executive director Gary Bagley. "We've had very mild weather so far this winter. Sometimes we wonder if people really think about until they themselves are really cold."
The coats are distributed to groups, churches and shelters around the city. As of Friday, around 400 organizations and agencies have requested coats but the drive had only reached the 20th group on the list. The drive runs through Feb. 7.
After Superstorm Sandy last year, the organization received some 123,000 coats during the drive. Bagley worries that without the hurricane, potential donors might now be less aware of need. "Or they might have given a great deal last year," he added.
But need doesn't fluctuate like generosity, Bagley said. Children often grow out of winter coats in just a year and, for homeless who live on the street, coats might not survive the seasons.
Bagley said more New Yorkers need coats than in typical years. Before the storm, roughly 80,000 coats were collected in 2011.
"More people are in need of a warm winter coat this year," he said. The two most wanted, he said, are large men's coats and those for children.
He said he thinks the city's stagnating poverty rate and the continually increasing homeless shelter population are factors in the rising need for coats. Sandy, too, continues to play a role.
"For folks to get back on their feet after the hurricane is a longer process than many may be aware of," Bagley said.
At a distribution event in the Rockaways this year, Bagley said there was a line around the block even after all the coats were passed out.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to donate coats last week, after New York Cares revealed the low numbers.
"We didn't want to wait to see if it picks up, before it's too late," Bagley said.
How to donate to the New York Cares coat drive:
- Drop off at major transportation hubs: Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, Jamaica Station, World Trade Center PATH Station and Port Authority Bus Terminal (Coats are accepted weekday mornings 7 to 9 a.m. at most transit sites, but times vary, call 212-228-5000)
- Take donations to any NYPD precinct
- There are many more locations, find the closest here.
- More information here.
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