May 21, 2018
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Volunteer helps bring warmth to Waldo County

By Ardeana Hamlin, BDN Staff

BELFAST, Maine — Debbie Mitchell of Belfast wants people to be warm this winter. She has volunteered for the Triad of Waldo County Warm Coat Project for the last three years. “I think the demand will go up this year,” she said. “The need has definitely increased in communities. More people are using food pantries.” The project is a grass-roots effort aimed at senior citizens, but if coats for children are donated, the jackets also will be distributed, she said.

Local food pantries are one of the links that put warm coats, sweaters, hats, mittens, gloves and scarves into the hands of those struggling to make ends meet in a tight economy. “I need to get the world out to food pantries in Waldo County about this effort,” Mitchell said. “If there is space available for donated coats in town offices, food pantries and other facilities, I hope someone will let me know.”

Currently, donation boxes for the warm clothing are located at the Waldo County YMCA in Belfast, the Belfast Police Department, the Searsport Safety Building, the Winterport Town Office and the Prospect Town Office. The boxes will be in place until Thursday, Dec. 15. The collected items will be distributed through local food pantries.

“Last year we had women who knit mittens, scarves and hats. Some even spun the wool they used to make the mittens. There has been a lot of support for the project from the community,” Mitchell said.

The Warm Coat Project was the brainchild of the late Carroll Warren, who lived in Waldo County, Mitchell said. A former president of Waldo County Triad, Warren ran the program out of his home, pretty much on his own. “We couldn’t stand to see the program go after he died. He was the kind of guy who was the first to show up when there was a fire or disaster. He found solutions for people having a rough time. He was the first one to start cooking the spaghetti sauce for a benefit supper to help whoever needed it.”

After Warren’s death, Mitchell stepped in and has made the program a focus of her volunteer efforts. “I had not been able to do volunteer work because of my job, so when I retired at age 60 I said that was what I was going to do.” Mitchell, who worked as a copyist in the music industry, writing sheet music for films, originally by hand, moved to Belfast from southern California seven years ago immediately after she retired.

Now she conducts the Warm Coat Project on her own, just as Warren once did. She said a volunteer in Northport provides space in his house to store donated coats until they can be distributed to area agencies.

Mitchell said she would welcome help to sort the coats. Last year the project provided 200 coats for men, 200 for women, 100 for children and 200 sweaters. She said that the donated coats, sweaters, hats, scarves, mittens and gloves should be clean and in good, wearable condition, or perhaps even new.

“The people you meet along the way is the reward,” she said of her volunteer work with the Warm Coat Project.

The Triad Program is an organization of police, fire emergency workers and the public that assists and protects the elderly. Its goal is to address crime issues that affect senior citizens and enhance the delivery of law enforcement services to that population. Visit for information.

To assist Debbie Mitchell with sorting coats or other project tasks, call her at 338-1255 or email

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