50,000 free coats: Holiday ritual bucks consumerism

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — It has become a holiday ritual in Rhode Island to take time on Black Friday to donate a warm coat, or pick one up for free.

The “Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange,” held the Friday after Thanksgiving at sites around the state, is Rhode Island’s twist on the anti-consumerism movement and attracts people of all stripes.

Greg Gerritt has run it since the idea was hatched during a meeting of the state’s Green Party in 1997. He says they wanted to highlight the problems with consumerism while also doing something useful for the community.

Gerritt estimates that 50,000 coats have passed through the group’s hands in the years since.

He says the event’s popularity shows that many people want to sit out Black Friday and give back to their communities.

Coats not distributed on November 25 will be carried by volunteers to the Standing Rock Reservation at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This is the first time coats left at the end of the day haven’t been further distributed locally.