“It’s been busy,” Cupe said. “They’ve been coming in with their families. God knows they don’t want to be cold in the winter, and they appreciate the coats.”
About 135 people signed in to receive free coats at the Salvation Army event Friday. With most walking out with four or five coats for family members, case worker Christina Penafiel estimated the center gave away more than 500 coats in four hours.
The coats, which came in all styles, sizes and colors, were donated by Best Cleaners for their annual Coats for Connecticut giveaway. The company, which has branches in central Connecticut, collects the coats from customers, cleans them and delivers them to Salvation Army units in the region. This year, the dry cleaner collected and delivered 12,000 coats, 1,700 in Meriden. Best Cleaners has been collecting, cleaning and delivering the coats for four years.
“We’re always looking for ways to give back to the community,” said Shawn McCann, president of Best Cleaners. “It seemed like a natural fit and something easy for us to do. We couldn’t do this without our customers’ generosity. We have customers buying coats to donate.”
It’s a two-week project, using six volunteers to handle the coat giveaway at the Catlin Street Salvation Army center, Penafiel said.
“We put fliers out to different agencies,” she said. “People need to bring proof of family size, and they get one for each member, but if somebody says ‘I need a raincoat’ we’re not going to turn anyone away.”
Laura Orama heard about the event from a friend, and brought her sister Maria Santiago along to get coats for themselves and their children. Orama’s daughter Cynthia Curet, 4, could barely wait to find something in her size.
“This is really nice,” Orama said.
The Salvation Army had so many donations it will likely have another giveaway soon.