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Sunday, November 27

"Coat giveaway makes its own fashion statement"

(Thanks to Morgen D'Arc of the Green Party of Maine for the following article.)

From the Providence Journal (register to read):

"Buy Nothing Day, held on one of the busiest holiday shopping days, puts the spotlight on area's needy."
November 26, 2005

"There were plenty of coats on sale at the Providence Place mall yesterday for 10 percent 25 percent, even 50 percent off. But across the street, on the State House lawn, hundreds of people were getting coats, sweaters, hats and books for an unbeatable price: Free.

"Yesterday was the ninth annual Buy Nothing Day in Rhode Island. People donated more than three thousand coats which were offered, for free, to whomever wanted them. Buy Nothing Day is about the nature of "stuff" in America, according to Greg Gerritt, the main organizer of the event.

"Lots of people have too much stuff. Lots of people don't have enough stuff," he said. Yesterday, the relationship between those two groups of people was highlighted on a day typically known for consumerism and excess--one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

"Buy Nothing Day is recognized by community and activist groups around the world. The Rhode Island Green Party, of which Gerritt is a member, sponsored the first observance in the state. Since then, more than 50 community groups have pitched in, donating supplies and clothes, and spreading the word.

"The word is getting around. This year's event was twice as large as last year's, Gerritt said, and it keeps growing. Organizers said about 3,000 coats were donated this year, and there were also similar events in Pawtucket and Newport.

"This was the first winter that Richard Hart heard about the free coats. He walked down Francis Street, across from a new luxury condominium construction site, carrying two winter coats and two fleece sweaters for himself and a friend.

"Hart, who is in his 50s, is just starting to gray around his beard. Trained as a prep chef, he has been out of work and homeless for the past two years. He heard about the free coats at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.

"I basically froze last winter," he said, but because of Buy Nothing Day, "I'm going to be pretty warm this winter."

"This was the second year Joseph Alan Hamrick visited Buy Nothing Day. Hamrick, 54, walked with an animated spring in his step. He wore a Crossroads ID tag around his neck and carried just one coat for himself.

"This is God's work," he said, "I don't get greedy."

"Along with clothes, there were free children's books from Books Are Wings, a statewide organization founded by Rep. Elizabeth Dennigan, D-East Providence, and her daughters.

"Parents and their children always appreciate books", Dennigan said, "even though warmth is uppermost in their minds."

"Two hours into the day, Dennigan, who was surrounded by volunteers, said they had given away more than 400 books. And they have 15 more giveaway events scheduled before Christmas. By noon, nearly 200 people were gathered on the State House lawn, mingling, looking through clothes and talking about the weather.

"If you look," Gerritt asked, "can you tell who's working? Who's donating? Who's getting coats?

"Usually the volunteers are over here" he said, motioning to his left, "and everyone else is over there" he said, spreading his arms to the right.

"And never the twain shall meet," he said, quoting Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Ballad of East and West." But many of the volunteers at Buy Nothing Day were people who came for coats and stayed to help.

"The need is great," he said, adding, as he surveyed the scene, "the generosity is great."

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