SALEM - Salem Realife Church is once again feeding the hungry and keeping them warm with their annual Warm Up Salem Coat giveaway from 11 to 2 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Park.
"We're glad we're able to assist and help. Each year the need has grown," Sarah Vickery said.
Vickery and her husband Jason both serve as lead pastors at the church and she helped start the program four years ago after noticing that people needed winter coats, not just through phone calls from requests, but just from being out and about and noticing some people without adequate coats for the weather.
All people have to do is show up, with no pre-registration required and anyone is welcome to come and pick out a coat, hat, gloves and scarf and sit down for a free hot meal, coffee and hot cocoa. The event is first come, first served.
Shirley Griffin, the financial administrator for Salem Realife, said they have about 1,000 winter coats ready to go, with all different styles and sizes for adults, children and babies, along with the accessories. About 200 families were served last year, with Vickery noting that equated to an estimated 500 people, both adults and children.
The event is always held the first Saturday of November at Centennial Park, with past years being snowy and cold. The Salem Realife Church Chuck Wagon of Hope, another group known as Not Just Smoke and the Salvation Army will handle the food offerings.
"We show a lot of love and compassion. They know the community cares," Vickery said of the families.
She said Yuhanick's Cleaners cleans the coats for free and Friends Roastery donates coffee. Several banks and individuals also help out with donations and a lot of people go out and collect coats. Realife's crochet club, known as the Yarn Ambassadors, knitted over 100 scarves.
Vickery said they're already making plans for next year and anyone wanting to make donations can contact the church on Facebook under Salem Realife Church or at the church's website at www.salemrealife.com.