Chase the Chill collecting donations of winter items for annual event

Oct. 30—This winter marks the eighth annual Chase the Chill event, during which hundreds of volunteers leave scarves, hats and gloves throughout Southwest Missouri.

The local Chase the Chill chapter will accept new or gently used winter clothing, as well as handmade items, through Monday, Dec. 5. There have been more than 258 items donated so far, with a goal of 2,000 items this year.

Jessica Moss, project coordinator of Chase the Chill Southwest Missouri, said the program's inaugural year brought in 347 scarves distributed in Joplin. Now, it has expanded to include Joplin, Monett, Webb City, Carthage and Neosho. There were 1,800 items donated last year. Nearly 8,000 scarves have been distributed since the local chapter's inception in 2015.

"Most of our volunteers are at-home volunteers who knit or crochet, and we have a few ladies who sew," Moss said. "We also take anything that's gently used in good condition. If your kids have outgrown it or you're just buying new this year, we take those donations as well. Any of those options will work. One of our ladies also made an Amazon wish list for winter items and yarn that can be shipped to us."

Participating drop-off locations with donation totes can be found at Access Family Care in Joplin and Neosho, Freeman Hospital West in Joplin, the Freeman human resources office, Freeman Cancer Center, the Bill and Virginia Leffen Center for Autism, Ozark Center Hope Spring, the Joplin Public Library, Homewood Suites in Joplin, Park Plaza Christian Church, Unity Church, the Missouri Southern State University criminal justice building, the first floor of MSSU's Webster Hall and MSSU's Billingsly Student Center.

Donations will also be accepted during the annual Joplin Turkey Trot race on Nov. 24 in downtown Joplin.

"We have a Joplin High School sophomore who's volunteering with us and has used this as community service hours for his college resume," Moss said. "He drives around once or twice a week and collects the donations. He makes the last collection rotation on Dec. 5, and we've really been blessed to have him. He does an awesome job for us. We have a few youth groups who also help us distribute on Saturday morning. We also have the college kids involved. A little bit of every generation comes out and helps."

The items are labeled with tags that say, "If you need some warmth, take this scarf. If you just like this scarf, take it! Know that someone selected this scarf just for YOU, and feel those love vibes wrapped around you."

The tagging event will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at Homewood Suites, 2642 E. 32nd St. in Joplin. Anyone who wants to volunteer can attend.

Program expansion

Moss said there are plenty of new things happening this winter, and Chase the Chill continues to grow annually with more community participation.

"This will be our first year in Neosho," Moss said. "Also new this year, I have a co-chair named Melody Dickey who is helping me out. Access Family Care joined us as a donation sponsor and a financial partner as well. When people volunteer, we have an annual button that has the date on it, and everyone receives one for participating. Access Family Care is taking care of the button donations, the love tags and the safety pins it takes to fasten the tags on the accessories. This is their first year joining us, and we're happy to have them."

On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 10, the local Chase the Chill team will hit the streets with the donated items to tie them around benches, light posts, bus stops and more. Anyone can take an item or more for free, regardless of income.

"It's one of those few things where there's no stipulations or income requirement," Moss said. "No one has to fill out a form. There's no need to tell us anything about yourself. We don't care if you're low income, high income, homeless, a child, an adult or elderly. If you need it, we want you to have it."

Moss had served as a volunteer before becoming the project coordinator three years ago.

"It's really neat to see the community come together," she said. "We have anywhere from 300 to 500 volunteers who either work behind the scenes crocheting or who distribute and tag for us. There's a lot of people who want to make sure people stay warm this winter. It's fun to see the elementary school kids come to their playgrounds and get the winter items that they need for recess or standing at the bus stop. It's an overwhelmingly great feeling to know that these are getting out to the community where they're needed. I've really enjoyed being involved the last five to six years."