“British Woman Selflessly Sets Up Coat Exchange to Keep Homeless Warm Ahead of Snowstorm” originally appeared on ABC News, and was reprinted with permission.
One British woman wanted to go above and beyond for her local homeless community and her selfless act is getting attention around the world.
Fay Sibley, who lives in Colchester, Essex, became concerned about the homeless people living in her neighborhood after weather forecasters predicted up to 4 inches of snow.
She decided to place a clothing rack filled with coats right outside her local library with the simple message: “Need a coat? Take one. Want to help? Leave one.”
Sibley, 30, told ABC News that she got the idea after spotting a similar exchange in Yorkshire on social media. She gathered up coats from her friends and family and set up her coat rack outside of the Colchester Library.
“Then I took a picture of what I’ve done and popped it on Facebook and asked people to share it,” she explained.
Within days, the photo had been shared more than 900 times.
“This is a particularly difficult time for [the homeless],” Sibley said. “The weather here has turned really cold and we’ve got snow on the way.”
Sibley said so far the coat exchange has been successful.
“By Saturday afternoon, we had 40 [coats] on the rail,” she recalled. “So we get about 40 each day. We cover up the coats so they don’t get damaged each night. And by then, there’s only three or four left.”
Sibley’s older sister Jo has been helping her collect coats to be added to the rack daily. For her own efforts, Jo has collected 15 or so coats from coworkers at her local school and friends.
“She had a little idea where she thought maybe it’ll stay there for a couple of days, and I think it’s actually amazing to see how quickly it’s grown,” Jo said.
Although Sibley’s work schedule can be demanding, she doesn’t mind maintaining the coat exchange.
“It takes so little time investment for me,” she said. “My main hope is that people think they can go do this too. It’s a simplistic pay-it-forward gesture. It’s something we can all do.”
Sibley said the coat exchange will be active outside of the library “as long as there’s a need for it. We don’t have a time limit.”
“As long as people are there and donating, we’ll try to keep it there,” she added.
Sibley’s coat exchange has gotten the attention of her local member of parliament, Will Quince. He tweeted that the paramedic had “great initiative in making it happen. Loving your work.”More On