HOULTON, Maine — How do coats collected in Chadds Ford, Pa., make their way to Houlton? Through the hard work of two charitable organizations and a little bit of luck, that’s how.
Back in December, Aids for Kids, a charitable organization created by Ed and Dawn Degenhardt of Houlton, was searching for ways to find coats for local children.
“We’ve been getting requests for coats from local schools and different groups, but we had very few on hand to give them,” said Danette Ellis, a volunteer with Aid for Kids’ “The ‘Other Maine’ Project.” Though based in Houlton, the project is aimed at helping the rural poor — primarily children, but also adults — throughout the state.
“I searched for groups who could help and found Operation Warm,” Ellis said. “It’s their sole mission to get coats for kids in need.”
Carey Palmquist, executive director of the Chadds Ford-based Operation Warm, recalled receiving a call from Ellis late last year.
“Dannette had heard about us and asked if there was anything Operation Warm could do to get coats to her organization,” Palmquist said.
Operation Warm typically raises money in a community through foundations, corporations, organizations and individuals, she explained. The organization ships coats into the community where funds have been raised.
“Since we had not done any fundraising in Maine, I didn’t have encouraging news for her,” she said.
As fate would have it, Operation Warm received an anonymous donation from a philanthropist just before Christmas and the donation was to give coats to children who needed them the most, Palmquist said.
“I immediately called Dannette, and we shipped coats to Aid for Kids,” she said. “Needless to say, we’d love to get coats up to Maine and to Aid for Kids every year. I need to do some fundraising up there so that that will be possible. I am working with Dannette on possible funding leads.”
Operation Warm was willing to provide 1,500 new winter jackets for youths, but there was one catch. Aid for Kids had to pay $1,200 in shipping fees to get the coats from Pennsylvania to Houlton. Enter Dexter Cowperthwaite.
Cowperthwaite, who operates a tractor-trailer company out of Littleton, agreed to have one of his rigs pick up the jackets while it was in Pennsylvania.
“I didn’t know Dexter personally, but knew he sent trucks to the Pennsylvania area,” Ellis said. “I called him up and told him we had this amazing chance to get 1,500 coats in 250 boxes. He said he had someone that was going to that area and was willing to pick them up for us.”
Getting the jackets out to those that need them is now the current charge for Ellis.
“We partner with more than 30 nonprofit groups and schools across the state that help distribute our merchandise to those in need,” she said.
Any nonprofit group or low-income family that is in need of children’s coats can contact Ellis at 532-4107 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aid for Kids is also in the midst of collecting votes for its group as part of Citgo’s “Rewarding Good” program, in which it is eligible to win a fuel card from Citgo. To vote for Aid for Kids, visit www.fuelinggood.com/rewardinggood?id=1014981.