VALPARAISO — Kathy Welter's heart warms at the thought of her community helping keep those less fortunate warm this winter.
Welter, a 43-year resident, spent Thursday afternoon tying coats to trees outside the Valparaiso Public Library and hanging hats, scarves and gloves on a clothesline.
She's hoping those in the community who are homeless or in need will stop by and take what they need. She's also hoping that those more fortunate will stop by and leave a coat, a hat, a scarf, gloves or socks.
Welter's project started in early November after seeing a photograph in Turkey of coats wrapped around trees. The coats, she said, are left in public places for people in need.
"That picture just moved me. I thought I could do something like that," she said, adding she posted her plans on Facebook and people began to respond.
She then received the library's permission to put the coats on a coat rack inside the library. So far, she said, she's distributed about 60 coats.
Welter tells the story of one man who stopped by, apparently homeless and looking for a coat while she was at the library. He found what he needed and thanked her, shaking her hand.
"I was so proud to shake his hand. It isn't often you get instantly thanked for what you do," she said.
People from near and far have responded to her social media plea. People have dropped off coats, one person sent 60 hats, and she's got about 250 pairs of socks from another donor.
She decided to take the distribution outside, she said, because it offers more anonymity for those in need to walk by and take what they need. It will also provide items when the library is closed. The city gave her permission to use the trees in the easement.
Welter said she knows those not in need may take advantage.
"That's their problem," she said.
"I know there is a real need in this community," she said, adding some have scoffed at her idea. "The majority of the people understand the need and are willing to help. It is a very giving, generous community."
"It is the season for giving, and we all need to do more of it."
Welter said people can tie a coat to a tree or hang some on the clothesline, located on the Franklin Street side of the library, or drop off items at her home, 1701 Crimson Drive, Valparaiso. They can also reach out to her through her Facebook page. She hopes to continue the project through early February.