WHEN JOSH DUERINGER’S sister Ashley was a freshman at Lake Forest High School, Mothers Trust needed volunteers to help collecting coats for its annual coat drive. When she was a sophomore, they asked her to run it. When Ashley graduated, her younger sister Samantha took over the project. And when she left for college, she turned the reigns over to her younger brother Josh.
“It’s our ninth year collecting coats for Mothers Trust,” says Josh, who doesn’t seem the least bit daunted by the task ahead of him. “I’ve kind of always been a part of it in some way and I really enjoy all of it. We collect thousands of coats for hundreds of families. I’m looking forward to helping give them away this year on November 13.”
Mothers Trust was founded in 1998 by Lake Forest’s Barbara Monsor. Monsor founded Mothers Trust after witnessing firsthand how a seemingly small amount of assistance can change a child’s life. Her idea was simple—to connect people in desperate situations with those who want to provide assistance where it will truly make a difference.
At its core, Mothers Trust Foundation fills in financial gaps for children from birth to age 21, in turn providing hope, building confidence, and making a positive difference in young people’s lives. “We are very good stewards of the money we receive,” says Executive Director Paula Turelli. “We take the trust people have in us very seriously.”
To this end, each Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m., a group of Mothers Trust volunteers gather on a Zoom call to review grant requests and vote on whether or not a grant should be made. Grant requests are submitted to Mothers Trust by social workers and school counselors throughout Lake County on behalf of the children they’re representing. Grant requests range from something as small as eyeglass frames to something as significant as money to cover health care costs. Since its inception, Mothers Trust has assisted more than 37,000 children with nearly $3 million in grants.
The coat drive spearheaded is an important outreach for Mothers Trust. Each year, Mothers Trust spreads the word through their network that the event is taking place.
“In 2020, with all of the Covid restrictions, we weren’t sure if the coat drive could even happen,” says Dueringer’s mother, Alyson. “But we had more coats than we’d ever had before because so many people had been cleaning out their closets during quarantine. We absolutely needed to distribute them. So, we pivoted our plan to a drive through.”
Held on a cold November morning from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the parking lot of Foss Park Community Center, 298 cars came through the line for coats.
“It was really amazing how it all came together,” Alyson says. “Each person was allowed to choose one coat and one accessory—a hat, gloves, or boots depending on what we had left—when they came through the line. We weren’t sure at all how it was going to work, but it did and we had nothing left when the morning was over.”
Almost from the moment the 2020 coat drive ended, the planning for 2021 began with Josh at the helm.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get people to want to collect coats, but that hasn’t been the case at all this year,” he says. “People really want to help.”
At press time, collection boxes have been strategically placed throughout the community. “We empty the boxes regularly to make room for more coats,” says Josh. “We just store them in our living room until the coat drive takes place. It’s pretty funny how full it gets.”
The coat drive team also hits the local thrift and second-hand stores to purchase any coats that are in good condition. They use money donated to the coat drive to buy these coats, in addition to funding from a sponsorship they received this year from Northern Trust Bank.
The greatest need is for children’s coats.
“It’s crazy to me that this is where we always run short on,” Alyson adds. “But if people are looking to make a donation, new or gently used children’s coats in all sizes are so appreciated.”
With a year of the drive-through coat drive under his belt, Josh looks forward to this year’s November 13 event. “It’s really incredible to see how happy these coats make the families that come to this event.”
To learn more about Mothers Trust or how you can help with the coat drive, visit motherstrustfoundation.org.