How one whine on a blog turns into 480 winter coats for needy Memphis kids

common ground coat drive thumbs up

Monday night, I posted this gripe about haters second-guessing why Shelby County Schools was cancelling classes because of frigid temps.

Five days later, the Action News 5-Common Ground coat drive was over and folks across the Mid-South had dropped off 480 winter coats (and plenty of hats and scarves) and donated $4,000 (and counting) to buy more cold weather gear for kids who need it. More here and here and here. (If you still want to help, here’s a drive that’s still going on here or make an online donation here.)

How we got from a post on this neglected blog to an amazing, physical outpouring of compassion is a long story, but the social media haters can have ALL the seats.

*channeling my inner Oprah* Here’s what I know for sure: People want to help. And if you tell them where and how and why, they will.

Image 5Because of y’all, hundreds of kids in Memphis will have warm coats – like these kids at South Park Elementary. (And as I learned this week, for lots of poor kids, a warm coat is also their blanket and mattress.)

My heart is warmer today. Yours should be too.

Go to the jump for shout-outs and specifics on where the coats will go and how you can still help if you wanna.

Some of the coats have already been dropped off at South Park Elementary School, Common Ground’s adopted school. The rest will go first to children at the YWCA’s after-school program; then children at the Title I schools where the YWCA has a presence. The YWCA has a process in place to make sure coats go to kids who NEED them.

Shoutouts, in no particular order: Tran Bui Smith, who hastily mobilized her Little Helpers to give (her coat drive goes through Jan. 31, deets here); Tammy Phillips at Action News 5, who was like “People want to help! Where can they give?” and I was like: Well, Common Ground and the YWCA could probably help” and WHAM! A massive coat drive was born; Ursula Madden, who did at least two live shots from Common Ground’s home base at the YWCA; Lauren Squires, who did at least two live shots at the YWCA and several other pieces; the camera guys (Mark and Bryson); Common Ground’s overworked program manager Betzaida Agis, who graciously did not strangle me when this coat drive exploded in down and feathers all over; Common Ground volunteer Paula Peyton, who agreed to manage the volunteers and help with the process because I do have a job; Aaron Thomas, Emily Thomas, Jessica Indingaro, Claire Ryan, Nic Harris, Paula’s Nana, Howard Hetsel, Elizabeth Shelley and all the other volunteers and donors and folks at the YWCA who rearranged their lives to make this happen; and everyone who shared, RTed or otherwise spread the word about the coat drive.

If I forgot to thank you by name, charge it to my head and not my heart.

(BTW, if you want to do more cool stuff like this with Common Ground, the racial justice effort I founded in 2008, contact us at info (at)


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