Wanted: 3,000 new or gently used coats, sweaters and jackets that are clean and in good condition.

After 18 years and more than 30,000 coats collected and shared with Lowcountry families in need, Coat Drive founders Larry and Robyn Mark hope to boost that number with this year’s event.

“Our community continues to grow, and there are still a lot of families in need,” said Larry Mark, president of Furniture Warehouse Design Gallery. “Recycling jackets, coats and sweaters is good for our environment and is good for our community.”

The Coat Drive kicked off November 1st and concludes December 31st. “This is the season of Thanksgiving and the season of giving,” Mark said. “It is our hope that less fortunate families can be thankful for warm coats, and others can ‘pay it forward’ by giving their outerwear to our Coat Drive.”

While the annual coat drive was founded by FWDG 19 years ago, it has grown to include many local organizations.  "This truly is a community event,” Mark said. “From the area businesses, schools, churches and civic clubs that are collecting coats on behalf of FWDG to the distribution outlets that ensure these coats and jackets go to those in need, it’s the very special people of the Lowcountry who make this a success,” he said.

Last year, the Coat Drive collected 2,784 coats and outerwear, putting them on the backs of families in need of warmth during the cool season. Since its inception in 1990, FWDG’s Coat Drive has collected and distributed more than 30,000 coats.

Distribution of coats and jackets will be handled by Bluffton Self Help, the Deep Well Project and HELP of Beaufort, organizations already in the business of helping families.

This year’s Coat Drive goal: 3,000 coats, sweaters and jackets.   Donations can be dropped off now through Dec. 31, 2009 at the following locations:

·         FWDG, Perimeter Walk, 745 Robert Smalls Parkway, (Hwy 170), Beaufort

·         Bluffton Self Help, 1264 May River Road (Hwy 46), Bluffton

·         BB&T branch offices in Beaufort County:

o   1008 William Hilton Parkway, Unit A, Hilton Head Island

o   200 Main Street, Suite 101, Hilton Head Island

o   2 Burnt Church Road, Bluffton

o   1 Kemmerlin Lane, Lady’s Island

o   905 Port Republic Street, Beaufort

·         Carolina Stamper, 203A Carteret Street, downtown Beaufort

Business, civic clubs, churches and other organizations can hold one- or two-day Coat Drive blitzes within their organization. They can designate a central coat collection point at their business or organization.  FWDG Coat Drive members will pick up coats throughout the Coat Drive.  FWDG asks that the organization keep track of the number of coats collected.    

The Coat Drive was started 19 years ago by Larry and Robyn Mark, longtime Lowcountry residents and business owners. Located at 745 Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort, one mile east of the Broad River Bridge, FWDG at Perimeter Walk is the only one-stop-shop for home furniture and fixtures in Beaufort. FWDG features displays for top-quality furniture makers including Norwalk, Rowe, and Kincaid. 

FWDG and its owners have received numerous awards recognizing the business and their involvement in the community.  Awards include: Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, Small Business Person of the Year, Beaufort Gazette’s Reader’s Choice Award for best Furniture Store for 10 straight years, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award for Business.

For additional information about FWDG or the Coat Drive, please call Larry Mark at 843-524-8695.