'Buy Nothing' coat exchange celebrates
the spirit of giving

Nov 26 2010
By Chris Quay The Courier Journal

The black and white sign advertising the “Buy Nothing Day Coat Exchange” in the parking lot of the Green building on Market Street Friday morning looked innocuous — but what was happening behind it was magic.

The premise of the first-time event was simple: Anyone who wanted to donate a coat could drop one off and anyone who needed a coat could pick one off one of the racks in the parking lot, and if it fit, go on their way — at no cost and with no strings attached.

Ted Loebenberg, the organizer, called the coat exchange, which had a successful debut on Black Friday, the “antithesis” to the commercialization of the holiday season.

While droves of shoppers crowded department stores, the charitable event focused on giving and receiving, with no cash changing hands.

“We didn’t need any money,” Loebenberg said.

The event was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by early on, about 300 coats had been exchanged. The event was also held in Radcliff at the Colvin Community Center, Loebenberg said.

“We had high hopes,” said Stephanie Brothers, the event planner and marketing director for the Green Building, which is at 732 E. Market St. She said Loebenberg contacted them about hosting the event and they were more than willing.

Loebenberg, of Brokers Unlimited Inc. Professional Auctioneers, has lived in Louisville for about three years, but said he worked with a similar effort in his native Rhode Island for more than a decade before coming to Kentucky.

He wanted to bring it to Louisville because of the success it had up north, he said. He plans on making it an annual event.

Word about Friday’s event was spread through networking, fliers, e-mail and the social networking site Facebook, he said.

A steady stream of donors and “shoppers” moved in and out of the parking lot, some unloading their trunks and walking up with arms full of outerwear.

“We had a little bit of everything,” Brothers said. “All shapes and sizes.”

Andy Latkovski and Donna Boone came with about 15 coats.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season sometimes gets in the way of being charitable, Latkovski said. “It’s something you think about, but don’t do.”

Latkovski learned about the coat exchange after meeting Loebenberg a few days earlier.

Carlson Gunn couldn’t give enough thanks when he found a stylish brown leather coat. “I know it’s going to be a bad winter,” Gunn said. “They didn’t have to do this.”

Loebenberg said the event motivates people to help others, which is important all year, not just during the holidays. He said he had no expectations about the number coats that would be donated and handed out.

“If I gave out one coat it would have been successful,” he said.

Reporter Chris Quay can be reached at (502) 582-4241.

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