Houston Chronicle

Mission of coats continues

Church, nonprofit put on an event that has grown to thousands of donations

- By Rebecca Carballo STAFF WRITER

It was a cold, rainy day when Bishop James Dixon spotted a woman without a coat on the side of the road on his drive to the Community of Faith Church, where he is a pastor.

She was walking by the onramp onto Interstate 45, shivering. It was a sight Dixon would never forget.

“I couldn’t come to church like that,” Dixon said. “So, I turned around.”

Cars whizzed past him as he approached the frightened woman. He told her he meant no harm, and he asked her to share her story. She explained she had been trafficked and was trying to get to a friend’s home. He gave her his coat and offered to give her a ride to where she needed to go. She accepted and began to cry.

“Leaving people shivering in Houston’s cold is just not an option,” Dixon said. His eyes welled while he told the story of meeting the woman.

He knew there were people just like this woman throughout Houston. So when he arrived at the church, he told his congregati­on he had a mission, and the response was phenomenal. Donations started coming in, and they were able to get coats to families throughout the Houston area.

Six years later, the tradition

continues. It’s gone from hundreds of coat donations to thousands. The church partnered with Good Gang USA, a Humble-based nonprofit, to make the event happen. This year, the drive has collected more than 2,600 coats in seven days, which is a record pace, said Tonya Dixon, director of social impact ministry for Community of Faith.

“It normally takes a few weeks to even get to 2,000,” Tonya Dixon said, noting that the pandemic is probably part of the reason why donations are up. “A lot of people are more generous right now. They are extending themselves a little bit more to basically care for their neighbor.”

Around 120 volunteers went to three sites to distribute­s coats Sunday: Garden City apartments, apartments on Northborou­gh Drive and “tent city” downtown, where much of the city’s homeless population lives.

Jzacoby Summers browsed through the stacks of coats with her 1year-old daughter on her hip, while her three little boys ran around as she tried to tell them to stay close by.

She saw the flyer for the drive on her door, and the single mother was relieved. Her oldest son is 8, and all her children are growing out of clothes fast, she said. Buying four new coats wouldn’t have been easy. Money has been tight since she lost her job as a waitress at Applebee’s at the start of the pandemic.

“It’s a blessing,” Summers said of the coat drive.

The restaurant eventually opened back up, but she was apprehensi­ve about returning to work because she didn’t want to get COVID and pass it on to her children.

Besides the fear of getting sick, two of her boys are doing virtual learning, so she wants a job she can do remotely so she can stay home with them as they do online school. Until she’s able to find a job, she’s been trying to save anywhere she can.

“I’m glad they did this,” she said. “I burned through my savings, and who knows when my stimulus check is coming.”

The coat drive will continue into Monday, when the group will go to various shelters. On Tuesday, they’ll deliver the coats to the children at schools in the Houston, Aldine and Spring school districts, Tonya Dixon said.

Donations will be accepted throughout the week, Tonya Dixon said. They can be dropped off at Community of Faith at 1024 Pinemont, or financial donations can be made at goodgangus­a.org.

 ?? Annie Mulligan / Contributo­r ?? Four-year-old Jaleah looks up at her new coat given by members of Community of Faith Church and Good Gang USA on Sunday at the Garden City Apartments in north Houston. Around 120 volunteers went to three sites to distribute coats.
Annie Mulligan / Contributo­r Four-year-old Jaleah looks up at her new coat given by members of Community of Faith Church and Good Gang USA on Sunday at the Garden City Apartments in north Houston. Around 120 volunteers went to three sites to distribute coats.
 ?? Annie Mulligan / Contributo­r ?? Deneen Newman, center, helps sort and hand out coats in north Houston on Sunday.
Annie Mulligan / Contributo­r Deneen Newman, center, helps sort and hand out coats in north Houston on Sunday.

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