Giving Back Club begins community service project

By Michelle McConnaha

The Bitterroot Valley Giving Back Club just formed a month ago, and already their first project is up and running – a winter coat drive to benefit valley residents.

Tracy Walczak started the club.

“I’m part of the Missoula Business Women’s Network,” said Walczak. “I was inspired by a speaker who told of a group that did a service project each month. I said let’s start one in the Bitterroot and we set up a Facebook page and I’m doing the first project. One Warm Coat is the umbrella organization and they’re providing the marketing material.”

Their goal with this month’s project is to “ensure that no one goes without a warm coat this winter.”

The coat drive started Nov. 12 and will continue through Nov. 30. Eleven businesses are participating and each has a large collection box, donated by Sears, to make it easy for valley residents to donate clean, gently used coats for people of all ages – toddler through senior citizens.

“Businesses are really good – I went in person to each store, and they’re very supportive and eager to help the community,” said Walczak. “The coat drive program provides an easy way for individuals and families to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors by simply passing along women’s, men’s and children‘s coats and jackets that are no longer needed.”

Coat drop-off locations are Darby Distribution, Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply, Lakeland Feed & Supply, Hamilton Super-1, Bitterroot Valley Board of Realtors, Corvallis Drug, Cowpoke Ranch Supply Inc, Bitterroot Stoves & Billiards, Victor Merc, Valley Drug & Variety and Gary & Leo’s IGA.

“This is the first time I’ve been involved with anything like this,” said Walczak. “We started on the Facebook page and are reaching out organically to churches, clubs, friends and we’re just getting the word out mostly by word of mouth.”

The coats will be collected, sorted and given to local non-profit organizations for distribution throughout the Bitterroot Valley. Organizations include S.A.F.E., Emma’s House, Council on Aging, Linda Massa Youth Home, Darby Food Bank and Pantry Partners.

“There’s a real need here,” said Walczak. “It blew my mind on how many people are going to the local food banks.

“We can set aside coats of specific sizes if people let us know. They can find information about the coat drive on our Facebook Page One Warm Coat – November Coat Drive or if someone doesn’t want to be online they can call me at (406) 360-4662.”

Walczak said the service project was close to her heart.

“I moved here from Virginia three years ago – it’s cold here,” she said.

Hannah Honey