Covering a Need in the Greenwich Community

One resident, one businessman help warm residents of Wilbur Peck Court with a coat drive.

Phil Brous delivers coats collected in a coat drive he organized for Wilbur Peck Court residents. Photo credit: Barbara Heins.
Phil Brous delivers coats collected in a coat drive he organized for Wilbur Peck Court residents. Photo credit: Barbara Heins.

It was only fitting that a fast-falling snow squall enveloped Greenwich on the morning that 80 winter coats and jackets were being delivered to Wilbur Peck Court.

The outpouring of generosity came from residents of the Havemeyer Park neighborhood, who answered the call to donate unneeded and gently used outwear in a coat drive organized by resident Philip Brous. "Just knowing there's a need locally," is what inspired Brous to organize the drive and work with the Needs Clearing House, a charity that pairs community resources with those in need.

The Needs Clearing House (NCH) was started nearly a year ago by resident Joe Kaliko and state Rep. Fred Camillo. Previous NCH projects include collecting used bed linens and towels from the Stamford Marriott and The Nathaniel Witherell nursing home and donating them to Neighbor to Neighbor, Greenwich's anti-poverty agency.

Andee Cantavero, a social services coordinator for the Greenwich Housing Authority, which operates Wilbur Peck, said some of the town's neediest families live in the 110-unit apartment complex on Davis Avenue. An evening for residents to come and select coats will be held within two weeks, Cantavero said.

Brous collected the coats over the course of a couple recent weekends. "It's all about rescue and recycling," Brous said. He enlisted the aid of Robert DeRosa, the owner of Jiffy Cleaners in Riverside, who donated cleaning services for all of the coats.

"The National Cleaners Association does a lot of this type of work in New York City. I thought this was a good cause," DeRosa said as he and Brous carried the coats from his car into the Family Action Center, a community room where classes and meetings for Wilbur Peck residents are held.

"This is an excellent example of a citizen coming forward and making a donation," Kaliko said.

As the coats were being delivered Jan. 10, Kaliko and Cantavero talked about other residents' needs including bed linens and towels. "Some families have six and 10 kids. It' gets to be expensive to go out and spend $30 on a set of sheets," Cantavero said.

"You go into an apartment and you'll see that it's just a blanket atop a mattress," she said.

Kaliko committed to working with the Marriott for donations of sheets for residents. 

Camillo said many residents don't realize there is a need in the community — that not all are wealthy. "Eighteen percent of Greenwich's population earn less than $50,000 a year," Camillo said.

Brous said he will continue to collect coats to donate to Wilbur Peck residents and that anyone who wants to make a donation can contact him a PhilipBrous@gmail.com or to call him at 203-496-6179. Village Appliance in Port Chester donated the boxes Brous used to collect the coats and the Staples store in Riverside donated signs announcing the collection drive, according to Brous.

"We want other people to do the same thing," he said. 

(Anyone who wants to make a donation of clothing or linens, also may contact Kaliko at jjk827@aol.com or 203-629-5555; or Camillo at acamillo@gmail.com.)

Editor's  note: this story was updated to correct Robert DeRosa's name.

Phil Brous January 14, 2014 at 10:26 AM
There's another Coat Drive this Thursday 16th and Friday 17th at North Mianus School. Please drop off any lightly used coats you might have. Thank you for all for the donations of Coats from the Havemeyer Park residents and Thank you to Barbara for writing this nice article. Phil Brous


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