A Facebook post spurning a request for hand-me-down children's clothes as "begging" so appalled Debbie Loesch and her daughter, Brittany, that they created a social media group for their friends, who swiftly outfitted the youngster in need — the granddaughter of a mutual friend — for school.
That initiative five years ago grew into a Patchogue nonprofit, Angels of Long Island, which on Saturday will give away 1,000 new or gently used coats, plus hats, scarves, gloves and hundreds of blankets.
The giveaway will start at noon in the parking lot of the nonprofit's thrift store at 350-23 East Main Street.
"It's a gift of warmth giveaway," Loesch of Bellport Village said. This year's donors include a "beautiful family that owns a food truck," she said, who will offer free hot cocoa, coffee, tea, soup and sandwiches.
"We help families in crisis all across Long Island. It's not just the homeless people," Loesch said, adding her charity also helps people with mental health or addiction issues.
The only requirement for Saturday's giveaway, Loesch said, is that "every person receiving this gift must be present," to ensure no one gets more coats than they need.
"I don't ask for paperwork," she said.
Loesch's thrift shop differs from others, she said, in a number of ways, including the way it treats families in need. If they go through Bellmore's Long Island Crisis Center, they can shop for free — "and with dignity" — and no will know, not even the clerk who rings up their purchases, Loesch said.
"I have brand-new merchandise, gently used merchandise," she said. "They get to walk around the store, pick out their own style, the colors they like, go to the register like everyone else (and) it's prearranged ... Nobody in the store knows they are getting it for free."
Prices are modest, though Loesch said that makes it harder to keep the store going.
"Anything that is in the store that is priced over five dollars is always 50% off," Loesch said. Still, she said the store must produce more income to stay viable.
"My volunteers are tremendous," she said. "I really could use community support," said Loesch, who just finished an annual program that equipped 438 children with everything from clothes to fully-stocked backpacks.
"This started with just trying to help one little girl — and it grew," Loesch said.