Portland, OR. This year the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) will move its annual event – Operation Overcoat – “from one big downtown event, to distributing winter gear and meals all over the city in partnership with other non-profits and local churches,” according to Communications Manager Courtney Dodds.
As new restrictions and safety challenges due to COVID-19 mean no large crowds this year, UGM’s team brainstormed a way to reinvent Operation Overcoat to get vital supplies to those in need. In several city-wide mini functions beginning Saturday, September 19th, the organization will be partnering with local churches, schools, and workplaces to gather and deliver backpacks filled with shoes, coats, pants, and other items.
“In other words, Operation Overcoat is going mobile,” explained Courtney. “Winter weather can be dangerous and even life-threatening for our neighbors who are houseless and living outside. Due to the pandemic, more people than ever are financially on the edge and sadly it is projected that even more people will fall into homelessness.”
“Receiving vital life essentials is often the first step to building a relationship and helping someone find a path off the streets. Operation Overcoat not only provides for basic needs but is a point of personal connection.”
For over 20 years, the downtown-situated block party drew nearly a thousand attendees with live music, free food, and festivities as volunteers distributed thousands of donated clothing items to neighbors experiencing homelessness or need in the community.
Courtney notes that the event “will look different this year, but our commitment to coming alongside those in need remains the same.”
Here are some ways you or your local organization can get involved this year:
- Organize a donation drive at your church, workplace or school. Our most needed items include pants, new undergarments, sleeping bags, boots, and coats. Drop your items off at Union Gospel Mission at 3 NW Third Avenue.
- Support Operation Overcoat financially. It costs about $23.53 to serve each person through Operation Overcoat. Consider a special financial gift for Operation Overcoat. You can give online at ugmportland.org/donate
Your Gift of $23.53 provides an Operation Overcoat guest with goods and services that would cost them over $200 in a retail environment.
Union Gospel Mission was founded in 1927, when 40 area churches came together seeking to minister to the homeless and hurting on the streets of Portland. In 1937, Union Gospel Mission purchased a building at 15 NW Third Ave.