LACONIA — Often we read about service organizations aiding people in myriad ways. But individuals with an idea, focus and persistence often step up to help organizations in their community efforts.
Nikki Brandt, manager at the Ellacoya General Store and Deli in Gilford, is a good example. Nikki sponsored a coat drive this winter at the store which netted an impressive amount of donations for Lakes Region Community Services' Family Resource Center in Laconia.
Nikki began thinking about this because of her own life experience. "I have four kids and I've had to go to places for help before I started working, when we only had my husband's wages." But she wasn't thinking primarily of children for this effort. "Some coats were donated for all ages, but mostly adults. There are many things done to help children. There isn't too much thought for their parents. And parents spend what they have for their kids, not themselves." This past frigid winter led Nikki to think about warm coats.
"We have a chalk board at the store for specials, and we just used that and word of mouth to let people know." It was enough. During the month of January many, many coats—in the end, three and a half large trash bags full—were donated. They included both dress and work coats, and some really high quality merchandise. "People really stepped up. Some coats were new. Some customers donated the coats off their backs," recalls Joanne Piper Lang, Director of Development at LRCS.
Finding a recipient for the donations though was initially troublesome. "That was the longest part of it all," Nikki stated. "It took over a month. Some organizations had already done their clothes drives. Then I contacted LRCS." The agency had many clients who could use the coats and was glad to be involved.
"At the Family Resource Center, we recognize the importance of supporting every member in a family-not just the children, in receiving concrete supports in times of need. The Coat Drive allowed us to provide coats to the parents and caregivers of children for the first time. While many families benefited, one struggling mother of three young children particularly comes to mind. While she was doing the best she could to take care of her children, it was discovered that she was lacking what she needed for herself. We had a blast looking through the wide variety of coats donated by Ellacoya until she found her favorite one. It was a joy to see her walking out of our building a little warmer and with a little more pep in her step," commented Erin Klasen, Family Support Manager
Like many who volunteer, Nikki got a lot out of the effort as well, and can recommend it. "My advice to anyone with an idea to help people is, don't give up. Keep trying. When you have something nice to put on, it just lifts you up. Knowing that someone is warmer when they go out to their work, or has a nice business coat for a job interview—and that I did that for people, is an amazing feeling."
Lakes Region Community Services (LRCS) is a nonprofit, comprehensive family support agency with a primary focus of providing supports to individuals with developmental disabilities and/or acquired brain disorders and their families. LRCS has offices in Laconia and Plymouth which combine to serve families residing throughout Belknap and Southern Grafton Counties. For more information contact Joanne Piper Lang at 603-524-8811or visit www.lrcs.org.