An idea to help people stay warm in winter has taken off in Jefferson City.
Brooke Hewitt, an in-home health physical therapist assistant, saw a post on Facebook this past weekend about an effort being made in other parts of the country.
The idea was to put coat racks out in front of businesses to allow those less fortunate to pick them up for free.
"The sign on the racks is 'Need a coat, take one/Want to help, leave one," Hewitt said. "I shared the post on my Facebook page and some other public pages, and I thought I might get one business helping, but I didn't expect the response I got."
Heads Up Spa and Salon is taking coat donations through Friday at its location on West McCarty Street. Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care also is donating coats and other items to the cause.
Annie Schulte, owner of Encore Department Store on East Capitol Avenue, said there is no requirement to pick up the coats on the racks outside her shop.
"People can just come by and pick them up," Schulte said. "We go on the honor system. Many people need a coat this time of the year and many people have an extra coat, so if you have one or more bring them by."
Schulte said she started with 12 coats she found in her basement.
"We started this Sunday with two racks, and we ended up giving away over 30 coats," she said. "I know it got attention on Facebook, but I also think with three churches near our store, a lot of people leaving those services saw the signs and decided they wanted to help."
Other businesses that have set up coat racks outside their businesses include Yanis Coffee Zone and Rachel's Downtown Diner on East High Street, as well as Creative Nails and TNC's Trading Post on Missouri Boulevard. Racks will be outside the businesses while they are open.
They also plan to start collecting hoodies, sweaters, gloves and hats, Hewitt said. The goal is to fill the racks through the winter.
"It's blown me away," Hewitt said. "I was getting concerned about how to get to every place, but it's just great to see the businesses doing it themselves. I talked with Taisir (Yanis) at Coffee Zone today, and he told me a homeless man he gives coffee to every morning took one of the coats — and that's who we want to help."