- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

LYNN, Mass. (AP) - Lynn resident Peter Cipriano is working to ensure people stay warm this winter.

Cipriano, 49, has collected more than 600 gently-used winter coats this year, which he distributes to adults and children in need. His goal is to collect 700 coats by Jan. 10.

“It takes a village,” Cipriano said. “We have to help each other. We’ve got to keep people warm. It’s a small thing, but it helps.”

He decided to collect winter gear four years ago at the urging of his friend, Sandi Watkins, who started the initiative. He collected about 100 coats for her the first year and 350 last year when he took over the drive.

Cipriano said he has seen more success this year because he has been collecting since last January. In the past, he would start gathering coats in October, and would continue the effort for three months.

“I said if I collected all year-round, I could double that number,” said Cipriano, referring to last year’s total.

For every 100 coats he collects, Cipriano calls his contact at the local Shoe City Lions Club, who comes to pick them up. The coats are then brought to Anton’s Cleaners, where they are cleaned and distributed to local organizations. From there, the coats are given away to people who would otherwise not be able to afford them.

Sometimes the distribution is more personal, Cipriano said. For instance, he recently received a call from one woman who was seeking coats for her grandchildren. She brought the kids over to Cipriano’s house and they picked out their desired coats. The woman then brought the coats home and cleaned them herself.

The scenario is not unique. Cipriano does significant networking for the cause on social media and often gets people who reach out and ask if they can look through his available coats before they are distributed to local organizations.

It’s also not uncommon to find Cipriano on the road each weekend. He spends a lot of his time off driving around to pick up the coats. He has found help from some businesses as well, where the owners have set up collection boxes for him.

Although he’s found more success with the drive this year, he does not plan to become complacent. Going forward, his goal will be to collect 1,000 coats annually.

“There’s definitely a need,” Cipriano said. “It’s very easy to help out. Just donate your last year’s coats.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2LEyNBw

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