Boots on the Ground

Red Budd Holy Church Pastor Warren C. Lynch and Jeanette Evans help a child with a new coat during the 2020 Boots on the Ground coat drive.

“It’s cold outside. Put your coat on!” How many children have grumbled at the sound of those words?

But it’s a different story if there isn’t a coat to be had or if the one from last year or the year before doesn’t quite fit. Staying warm then isn’t an option.

Operation Coat Drive is one way a local church is working to correct that situation. Red Budd Holy Church of Rocky Mount is making coats for children its Boots on the Ground Christmas Community Outreach for the second year. Registration is going on now but ends Dec. 11.

Rose Whitaker said the church chose to do a drive for coats instead of toys because a cold child is a serious matter.

“Coats warm (children). They cover them. When a child’s body is warm, he can function,” she said, adding that the consequences of cold can include sickness or even death.

Whitaker said Operation Coat Drive has no hidden agenda.

“If your child needs a coat, just call and register. This is done out of love,” said Whitaker, who is working on the drive with Katherine Reynolds and Sharon Braswell.

Last year, the church’s donation center was in Sharpsburg, and 100 children received new coats. This year, coats will be given out to registered participants on Dec. 18 at Red Budd Holy Church at 637 Cleveland St. in Rocky Mount.

The cut-off is age 16 for children in Rocky Mount and the surrounding area. To register, parents or guardians must provide the child’s name, age, gender, coat size, county of residence and a phone number. They will receive a call with a designated pickup time between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 18.

Used coats are not accepted as donations because of COVID-19. All children receive new coats.


Some coats come from people who buy them new and donate them. Whitaker and many of her church community fall in that category.

“In order to receive, you have to give,” Whitaker said. “If people want to be a blessing to a child and give, they can.”

She said the church also takes monetary donations, which make the project easier because those involved know the sizes needed for applicants.

Donors can use the Cash App code $RBHC1959 to give through their phones to Boots on the Ground. The church provides a donation confirmation letter and E.I.N. for tax purposes.

Other churches also have supported the coat drive, particularly Wilson Praise and Worship, which sent a donation from Emery’s Place, an outreach ministry in honor of Emery Sky Godwin, the daughter of Brent and Chasity Godwin. Belk, JCPenney of Rocky Mount and Ross’s in Wilson have also donated.

Most of the coats purchased by Red Budd Holy Church come from Belk to keep the business local as opposed to buying online, Whitaker said.

Boots on the Ground organizers are hoping to raise enough money to double their giving power from 100 coats last year to 200 this year, but the Dec. 11 deadline is approaching.

For more information on how to donate, call Whitaker at 252-382-9064, Reynolds at 252-467-5277 or Braswell at 252-458-4855.

“What we’re doing is from the heart,” Whitaker said. “It’s pure love. We are the vessels of God’s love and we want to show that love to the children.”