Youngstown Blue Coats Relocates to New, Larger Space
HUBBARD, Ohio – Several years ago, Patty Summers was contacted by a friend to host a coat drive. What was only supposed to be a onetime endeavor became two more years of coat drives.
By 2017, Summers began her own organization from her garage at home.
“My initial thing was to do a coat drive to honor my father-in-law,” she said. “He said, ‘Don’t do it for me. Do it for the guys that didn’t come home.’ It’s always been about our veterans.”
Youngstown Blue Coats, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization providing warming items to disadvantaged veterans and other community members, officially opened its 12,000-square-foot headquarters at 2654 N. Main St. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.
Summers, founder and CEO of the organization, said the move was long overdue and is a huge upgrade from their previous 2,400-square-foot space.
YBC covers Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Portage, Stark and Summit counties in Ohio, and Mercer, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Allegheny and Washington counties in Pennsylvania. The organization works with 58 agencies and several local schools.
“We have been looking for over a year, knowing that we had already outgrown our other space,” Summers said. “We searched and we couldn’t find anything that was a warehouse-type situation that was under $3,000 [a month]. Everything was $3,000 or more.”
One day, Summers said she went by the building on North Main Street and saw it had an auction sign.
While Summers said she soon realized the auction sign was only for the equipment and not the building itself, she discovered the owner was looking to rent out the space. To her surprise, he was asking only $1,200 per month.
“[YBC] has grown from serving 10 people our first year to serving 3,500 last year,” she said.
Summers said some of the biggest highlights of the new space will be fitting the organization’s Alex Luke distribution bus – named after a World War II veteran, war hero and Silver Star recipient – inside the building and separating donated items into designated spaces.
The staff is made up entirely of volunteers. Summers said she has a core group of about 10 volunteers whom she regularly works with and about 30 who volunteer at different times throughout the year.
“We are always looking for volunteers,” she said. “Throughout different times of the year, we have people that just go out with us at night because we do nighttime missions, as well as daytime missions.”
Pat Maiorca, the longest-serving member of the organization, said she has been working with Summers since the start.
“This day is very special,” she said. “When we first started, we were using Patty’s garage at home to put coats in, and then we moved to a very small office that was like a bird’s nest – it was so small.”
Much like Summers, Maiorca said she was also inspired by veterans in her life.
“My father was a veteran, and my husband was a veteran,” she said. “I just have an affinity for the men and women that put their lives on the line every day for us. We have found out that there are a lot of disadvantaged, low-income [and] homeless people, with a particular emphasis on veterans.”
Maiorca said she still finds it hard to believe the growth the organization has seen in only about six years.
“I just can’t believe the years we have been in existence how we have grown, but the need is there,” she said. “We need the room; we need the space; we need all of the contributions, and we need volunteers.”
For more information about the organization, donations or volunteer opportunities, click HERE.
Pictured at top: Patty Summers, founder and CEO of Youngstown Blue Coats, stands next to the organization’s distribution bus.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.