MUSCATINE — What started as a suggestion on social media, has led to nearly 100 coats going to those in need.
Laura Schroeder-Darting said her friend sent her a post on Facebook about a person who put out a clothing rack in their community to collect and offer donations of winter coats. Her friend thought because Schroeder-Darting owns her self-named photography studio in downtown Muscatine, she had an ideal location to set up a rack downtown. And starting in January, she did.
The social media post was "on point," Schroeder-Darting said because the experience "has been wonderful."
The clothing rack with a sign, "Need a coat? Take one. Want to help? Leave one," has cycled through many donations of coats and warm clothing such as hats, scarves, mittens and snow pants — whatever anonymous locals have given.
Since the studio is so close to Jesus Mission Church and Pearl City Outreach in the 500 block of Mulberry Avenue, Schroeder-Darting took all of the items on the rack to the shelter when it was running as a warming center during one of the coldest days of the month, with lows plummeting to a nearly record setting minus 27. The next day, the rack was filled again with more donations of coats and other warm clothing.
"I feel like we do have people in need," Schroeder-Darting said.
Pastor Sharon Phillips, who runs the Jesus Mission Church and Pearl City Outreach, knows those people exist. She said Schroeder-Darting was "a blessing."
"I am overwhelmed with joy," she said.
Because of the extremely cold weather, people have been frequently visiting the mission to get coats, hats, mittens, socks and boots. Some have even come in with frostbitten fingers and toes. Phillips said more donations are needed, especially coats, hats for adults, boots and socks.
The Jesus Mission building will be unlocked during very cold weather as a warming center to offer safety for those who may otherwise be outdoors.
"We don't turn anyone away," Phillips said, and they provide whatever people need to keep warm.
"We're just a little corner of Muscatine," she said. "There are so many places helping people that go unnoticed."
The coat rack is set up 24-7 at 124 E. 2nd St. And since winter just won't let go, anyone and everyone is welcome to donate or take what they need.
Schroeder-Darting said she thinks the way the clothing rack is set up makes it easier for people to stop by in the evenings when they have some privacy to accept the donations. She'll keep the rack out until the weather warms up or she sees the number of donations decrease.
"The community has been absolutely wonderful," Schroeder-Darting said.
And it really is about the community, Schroeder-Darting said. She does not take credit for the donations.
"I just provide the space," she said.
She has also gotten the word out to teachers and employees with the Department of Health and Human Services in town so they may alert students and families in need.
She said "there was nothing to lose" by putting the rack out and thanks the community for participating in the effort to keep people warm.
"We may have different political stances," she said, "but when it comes to people in need, the community really pulls together to get people what they need, especially in times like this."