By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Bundle up Big Sky! Temperatures are dropping, snow is falling, and winter is almost upon us. For those who lack the proper clothing to bundle up, the Big Sky Coat Drive has your back.
Organized by Big Sky local Kelsey French, this is the inaugural year of the Big Sky Coat Drive. After growing up in the community, French wanted to give back and this year, she was finally able to make the coat drive a reality.
“I grew up in Big Sky, born and raised. Through the many different jobs that I’ve had throughout living here, my whole life I’ve seen the J-1s come in, and they’re not prepared for negative 14 degree weather,” French said, referring to the hundreds of international workers who join the local workforce annually through work visa programs. “I see people that aren’t as well off as others that are wearing torn jackets. They’re just not ready for the type of weather that we have here.”
The drive is made possible by French’s employers, Lone Mountain Land Company and Big Sky Real Estate Co., who are sponsoring the event alongside a partnership with Big Sky Town Center.
Donation bins were distributed on Oct. 22 and the cutoff to donate is on Nov. 12 in order to give French time to get all the coats dry cleaned for the coat pick up on Dec. 3 and 4. Persnickety Cleaners in Big Sky has agreed to clean the first 100 items donated and Big Sky Real Estate Co. has agreed to foot the remaining dry-cleaning bill.
The donation bins are located at a few different businesses around Town Center. There is a bin behind the Big Sky Real Estate Co., one between Acre and Montana Supply and one at the Wilson Hotel. There will also be a bin in each school: Lone Peak High School, Ophir Elementary, Big Sky Discovery Academy and Morningstar Learning Center.
Donations should be gently used without holes. If you don’t have any extra coats hiding in your closet but still wish to donate, newly purchased coats are also welcome. So far, the whole operation is run by French who will make frequent trips to empty the donation bins and bring items to the dry cleaners.
On the days of the coat pick up, French hopes to have volunteers sign up for time slots to help out. On Nov. 24, the pick-up will be at the Wilson Hotel from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Nov. 25 it will be in the Big Sky Real Estate sales center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Each person is allowed to pick out one coat. Unfortunately, in order to keep all the coats clean, they will not be allowed to try the coats on, but French explained that she will have each coat in a plastic sleeve labeled with a size, and she will be on-deck to help distribute the coats.
French hopes to continue this event and make it an annual thing.
“I love this community,” she said. “I grew up here. I’ve seen all the change and everything. And finally, you know, working for a company that has the ability to give back. And it’s allowing me to kind of take it and run with it how I want to, which is amazing.”