Keep Denton Warm started back in October, with hats, gloves and coats dropped into boxes all over North Texas. It ends with a kind of pajama party: the Onesie Dance Party at 6 p.m. Saturday at Harvest House.
Friends with Benefits, a Denton nonprofit that keeps busy raising money and awareness for other nonprofits, started the winter clothing and gear drive in 2015.
Mindy Arendt, co-founder and president of the nonprofit, said the idea for Keep Denton Warm started over a beer with Liz Buferd, a former staffer at Giving Hope Inc. They sketched out plans to gather 200 coats and 200 pairs of socks for a winter charity drive.
“No one had ever done a winter coat drive,” Arendt said. “I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ When Liz left Giving Hope, we wanted to continue with the coat drive. I mean, there was a need, and people were willing to give.”
Arendt and friends Charlie Hunter and Kiara Helgesen forged Friends With Benefits in 2013 to raise money for people affected by a tornado that struck Granbury. Since then, the nonprofit has staged fundraising concerts, drag shows, parties, street festivals and drives to bring money, donations and a general signal boost to North Texas nonprofits. The scrappy model — bring locals together for a low-hassle good time — has worked.
Keep Denton Warm now collects winter weather gear for Our Daily Bread, a downtown nonprofit that runs a soup kitchen while providing everything from vouchers for laundry, bus and train travel and connections to all sorts of services.
“It’s such a great organization,” Arendt said. “They accept all sizes, and if they can’t use any of the donations, they will pass it along to another agency that does.”
Wendy McGee, the executive director of Our Daily Bread, said the agency is thrilled to partner with Friends With Benefits.
“I would just like for people to know we are so glad Keep Denton Warm has this drive, and they are collecting donations we need this time of year,” McGee said.
McGee said Our Daily Bread is seeing more families come through its doors, but that the greatest need is for a full range of adult sizes of coats, pants, sweaters and sweatshirts, and boots lined with fleece.
“We had a guy who was standing outside the other day. Just shivering. He was wearing shoes, he was dressed. But he told us, ‘I can’t get warm,’” McGee said. “We have limited capacity to store [clothing], but it seems like as soon as we get the clothing in, its gone. What we ask is that if people are going to donate clothing, make sure it is seasonally appropriate.”
If you’re donating in July, donate light T-shirts, shorts and lightweight bottoms, McGee said. In the winter, donate clothing that can be layered or that is made to be worn in cold and rain.
“We’re doing all we can do in fellowship hall [at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church]. We just have limited capacity to store donations,” she said.
Seasonal donations also help Our Daily Bread serve their clients immediately. For many of the homeless, keeping four seasons of clothing is impossible.
“The interesting thing is you and I have closets to put our coats in,” she said. “The unsheltered don’t, and so the things we don’t think of as being disposable are sometimes disposable.”
McGee said that donors planning to drop off clothes or blankets for Keep Denton Warm can also donate new underwear, bras and socks.
“We always need those items,” she said. “The need is ongoing and it is year-round. There’s a surge at the holidays in giving, but there is never a drop in the need. It’s always there, year-round.”
Our Daily Bread recently expanded its hours. The soup kitchen is open from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Saturday at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 300 W. Oak St.
Arendt said donors can hit one or more donation boxes around town as the spirit moves them. The Onesie Dance Party at Harvest House costs a bit of playful courage — show up in a onesie (outrageous or dignified) — and a donation of winter wear. Then cut a rug in your footed pajamas all night to DJs Miss Mino and Ursa Minor before modeling your garment in a contest.
“I have to give a shoutout to Little Guys Movers,” Arendt said. “They’ll collect the donations at Harvest House and take them over to Our Daily Bread. We have so many great partners.”