New London — With Christmas carols playing in the background, roughly half a dozen city employees Saturday organized a large collection of winter clothing they had amassed over the past three weeks at the downtown firehouse at the corner of Bank and Tilley streets.
The city's Public Works union, Local 1378 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, organized the outerwear clothes drive as an effort to collect winter coats, sweaters, fleeces, gloves and mittens to be distributed to children and adults in need with winter's impending arrival.
Just an hour into the morning's drive, 20 large black plastic bags were stuffed with various warm items of clothing, all divided by size and gender.
“We've been very successful, and it's only 10 a.m.,” said Marianna Gaynor-McGuirk, who led the three-week effort. She sits on the union's executive board, and she serves as the representative to the Southeastern Connecticut Central Labor Council.
The city's unions began the drive as a way to spread goodwill throughout New London, said Public Works employee Bill Barlow.
“We're hoping to help the community,” Barlow said.
The union tapped a variety of sources to help collect the clothes. The New London Adult Education program donated five bags alone, and there were collection bins throughout city buildings. The United Way, AT&T, New London Public Schools and Oswegatchie Elementary School in Waterford also helped out, Gaynor-McGuirk said.
The New London Senior Center donated a bagful of hand-knit gloves, mittens and scarves to the project as well.
On Monday the clothes will be transferred to the Visiting Nurses Association, which will then distribute the items throughout New London's schools through the schools' nurses.
This was the first time the union had held an outerwear clothes drive, though in the past it has organized food drives. The need for warm clothing was identified by the school system, Gaynor-McGuirk said.
Barlow said after the Thanksgiving holiday the union would likely sponsor a citywide food drive to benefit the Gemma E. Moran Food Center, which is currently suffering from a shortage of supplies.
Public Works employee Kathleen Harrington sorted the clothes into separate piles. “The greatest thing is not what we get, but what we get to give,” she said.