Q&A: Rhonda Thompson, Collecting Coats of All Sizes for People in Need

Working with One Warm Coat and A Spark of Kindness, Rhonda Thompson is collecting coats of all sizes for people in need through Nov. 21. She offers free pick-up and a discount at her photography studio to donors.

How old are your own kids?

I have a 7-year-old girl and twin 4-year-olds.

Are they into coats?

No, not really, though my son always picks a red coat, and one daughter picks pink and the other one always wants purple.

Are they the reason you got into this particular cause?

Not really. This is the third year I've collected coats; it's just something I could do—everyone has coats to donate. But it is a way to get my kids involved easily. We go through all their old stuff each year and it's something kind of fun for them. During the week I'll do anything to have a project to do with the kids—pick-ups and sorting gives them something to help with and I think that's important.

Do coats get in the way when you're photographing people?

Not at all. I only do outdoor photos, and in the cold months it's fun to be all bundled up together and keeping each other warm while we shoot.

How did you get started with this cause?

I was in Burlington Coat Factory and saw a sign for collection, and I started doing it for my family and others. You know how every year, kids outgrow stuff really fast. And I see so many people every week and most all of them have a pile of unused coats just sitting there. It's awesome to have them bring things to me, and I bring them in by the end of November, it works out.

Are all coats considered—windbreakers? Army jackets?

Thin, thick, any kind of coat, it doesn't matter. Imagine being outside in the winter at night and not having anything. Definitely anything helps.

Will some of the coats go to homeless kids?

Yeah, I would say so. That part just kills you. I look at my three and picture them being cold and it breaks my heart. Last year, another thing I do, Christmas Under the Bridge, passed out items to the homeless. We take toiletries and put them in a stocking—bottled water, candy for the kids. That gets going in December and is on Facebook.

Have you ever had a really unusual donation?

I've gotten a few brand-new leather coats that people never wore—adult coats, too. I myself would never go out and buy something leather and just not wear it, but I'm happy to have it for the collection.

Does it ever become a chore, collecting coats all those days?

I think it's fun. And doing photo sessions and having people arrive and get out these huge bags of coats for the cause—I don't know, I just love it.

Does it ever crowd up your minivan?

I'm way too cool for a minivan, let me tell you. I drive a Honda Accord. It gets small with all three kids and the coats inside. My goal for this year is to have to load down the Honda and make trips as many times as possible. So pleeeeeease, get those coats together! Someone out there will really appreciate it.

To schedule a pick-up before Nov. 21, e-mail rtpsmiles@yahoo.com; for more information about the organizations involved: asparkofkindness.org, onewarmcoat.org.