People in need in Blount County are going to be a little warmer this winter, thanks to the organizational skills of the Blount County Fire Department and the generosity of the community.
The annual Coats for Our Community kicked off this month, collecting coats and funds to provide warmth to more than 2,000 Blount County citizens. Last year, 800 of the 2,000 people served by the program were schoolchildren.
While gently-used and new coats will soon be collected at various drop-off points throughout the county, the past three years has seen the 16-year-old program get a big boost from the Blount County Fire Department Coats for Our Community Auction.
This year was no different.
The auction, which featured a diversity of items ranging from gift certificates for dinners to two cars, raised more than $12,000 for the program at the Nov. 6 auction. Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan said the generosity of the Blount community was a blessing.
Next phase in the project is to set out collection barrels for new or gently used coats to be collected. A list of those sites will be in Blount Today when they barrels are ready. Coats and donations can also be taken to any fire station -- Blount County, Maryville or Alcoa. The firefighters will also start visiting local schools in the next phase. Children or adults in need are given a heavy-weight and a light-weight coat, with more than 4,000 coats distributed last year.
The firefighters also take advantage of the Coats for Our Community program to highlight their free smoke detector program. As each participant is given a coat, they are asked if they have a working smoke detector. If they do not, one is installed free-of-charge within 24 hours. Residents can request a smoke detector even if they do not need a coat by calling 865-983-2133.