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Chester County Press

Church service recognizes community coat drive efforts

11/21/2017 12:34PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

A small mountain of generosity, seen in the form of generous boxes and piles of more than 800 winter coats collected all over southern Chester County, dominated the area behind the pulpit of the Unionville Presbyterian Church last Sunday evening, as a congregation of more than 150 attended a service that gave thanks to the generosity of individuals and groups who will help to keep their neighbors warm this winter.
Presided over by church pastor Annalie Korengel, the hour-long service honored the volunteer work of the Kennett Township Police Department, the Longwood Fire Company, the Rotary Club of Kennett Square, Genesis HealthCare and the Kendal Crosslands Communities for their dedication in spearheading an inaugural coat drive over the last several weeks that will soon help distribute winter coats to six Kennett-area organizations, whose family and individual members  will soon become the beneficiaries of these efforts.
“I sat down with [members of the] church, and we decided that we wanted to get some coats for some of the littler members of society who go without coats,” Korengel said. "It started there and then I met with Detective  [Amanda] Wenrich [of the Kennett Township Police Department], and then the police department wanted to do it, and then the [Longwood Fire Company] wanted to join in, and Kendal Crosslands [Communities] joined in, and then Genesis [HealthCare] joined in, and then Dr. Al Schmidt [of the Rotary Club of Kennett Square] joined in, and then [Umbreit] Korengel and Associates joined in, and then this,” she said, pointing to the coats behind her, “is what happened.
“These coats are going to keep those in the margins of our society warm,” she added. “People in our own backyards are going to be warm because of your generosity – all of the people who donated coats and gathered coats. In Kennett, this is a community that just comes out to support one another. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I think we should be incredibly grateful for the blessings we have, and the blessings we can give to others.”
Speaking before the congregation, Wenrich said that the idea to get the Kennett Township Police Department engaged in the coat drive began a few months ago, when she and her fellow officers began to brainstorm about ideas that would bring them closer to the communities that they serve.
“We wanted to do something that had a purely positive impact, one that would give us the opportunity to interact with people in a positive manner," she said. "One of the ideas we had was a coat drive. We thought it would be a great way to reach out to pockets of the community whom we don't get to interact with on a regular basis. Perhaps we could strengthen the relationship that we have with these areas of our community.
"Being involved in the Kennett-area community for more than two years, that we could pull this off. However, I had no idea that it would be this much of a success.”
Wenrich said that the department looks forward to the possibility of participating in the coat drive during next year's holiday season, with a goal to collect up to 2,000 winter coats.
Those representing the groups who will be the recipients of the winter coats included Susan Minarchi, director of Family Promise of Southern Chester County; Alisa Jones, president and CEO of La Communidad Hispana; Milena Lanz, executive director for the Maternal and Child Health Consortium; Jeremy Peterson, boys program and community service director of The Garage Community and Youth Center; Linda Mercner, executive director of Young Moms, Inc.; and Barbara Larsen, president of the Board of Directors of Kennett Area Community Services.
Larsen told the congregation about a holiday gift-giving event held at Kennett Area Community Services last year, when she met a woman who asked for winter clothes for her two children, as well as a coat for her friend. While the two women waited for their coats, Larsen asked one of the women to choose some children's toys from a nearby basket.
“There weren't many toys, just a little bag of them, perfect for a 9- or 10-year-old,” Larsen said. “Any one of us would be upset to find that that's what our children were going to get for Christmas.  The woman was so thrilled. 'My children will have a Christmas morning,' she told me.”
Soon, the staff at the event were able to find scarves, boots and gloves for the two children, and a winter coat for their mother. After first refusing a winter coat, the other woman finally accepted one.
“I found a coat, held it up before the woman, shook the wrinkles out, and she tried it on,” Larsen said. “She looked down at herself, and I will never forget the look on her face. She said, 'I feel loved. I feel like somebody cares for me.'”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email