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Those who fastened free coats to poles and trees in Old Town remain a mystery

November 23, 2018

Free coats for the homeless and unfortunate were anonymously left in Historic Old Town Pocatello this week. Each coat had a note fastened to it that read, “If you need me take me. If not please leave me for someone else.”

POCATELLO — People worldwide have been leaving coats zipped to poles and trees to keep the homeless and unfortunate from freezing during the winter for the last several years.

This clever charitable idea happened in Pocatello this week but the people or organization responsible remains a mystery.

The Journal noticed Monday morning that several coats with notes fastened to them had been zipped-up or tied around numerous poles and trees in Old Town Pocatello.

The notes read, “If you need me take me. If not please leave me for someone else.”

When asked if it was the organization she led that placed the coats, BJ Stensland, the executive director of Aid for Friends, said, “It wasn’t us, but how great? I think it’s a wonderful thought. It’s amazing to have the community engaged in such an organic project.”

By Tuesday afternoon, dozens of coats, both adult and youth sizes, were gone.

The Journal found no mention of the free coats offered in the Pocatello area in any news release or on any social media channels.

Stephanie Palagi, the the executive director of Old Town Pocatello, Inc., said she also didn’t know who may have left the coats.

A 10-year-old boy named Oliver Edwards was hanging coats during the winter season in Australia after starting what he calls the “Free on a Tree” initiative in May, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation news article.

But the movement appears to have started in Halifax, Canada, in 2015 and has since been reported by international news organizations and on social media platforms around the world, according to an Independent news article.

Stensland said she had no knowledge of the coats tied to poles and trees in Old Town Pocatello and is unsure if any other locations were used around town, but she would love to know who deserves the credit.

Rainbow Maldonado, a member of the Bannock Civitan Club also told the Journal this week she was unaware whose idea it was to place the coats in Pocatello.

“I think it’s awesome, and I’ve seen it other counties and cities, but I don’t know who is responsible for it here,” Maldonado said. “We are doing a coat drive for the Bannock County Civitan but it wasn’t our coats on the poles.”

The Bannock Civitan Club annual coat drive is underway and ends on Jan. 4.

Maldonado said that every coat or jacket donated will be distributed locally to those in need.

Donations can be given to any Bannock Civitan member or dropped at any of the following community partners: Cole Chevrolet, Courtesy Ford Lincoln, Denny’s Wrecker Service, Hirning Buick GMC, Idaho State Journal, Ireland Bank, Idaho State University Eli M. Oboler Library, Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Pocatello, Prestige Annex Body Shop, Pocatello Nissan, Simplot Credit Union and Teton Honda.

”Inspirational” was the word of choice for Maldonado when she learned that the coats were placed in Pocatello anonymously.

”Creative ways to help individuals will hopefully lead others to help,” Maldonado said. “Making that difference to that one individual is inspiring. Bannock Civitan and other organized civic service groups along with individual efforts can make a difference and it shows what and inspiring community we live in.”

The Journal would like to know who placed the coats in Pocatello. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Shelbie Harris at sharris@journalnet.com or 208-239-3525.

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