'Leave a Coat' Racks Provide a Helping Hand in South City


It started, as many good ideas do, on Cherokee Street, with a hanging rack positioned near the corner of Cherokee and Jefferson. "Need coat?" the neatly typed sign asked. "Take one. Want to help? Leave one."

And people did. Coats were taken, coats were left, and south city residents helped each other through the season's first big cold snap.

Then one act of inspiration became two. Tessa Auza, the manager at Guerrilla Street Food, heard about the project and posted about it on Facebook. The restaurant's chef and co-owner, Brian Hardesty, had an immediate response to her post, says Hardesty's partner Joel Crespo: "We'll do it too." By Saturday, the restaurant at South Grand and Arsenal had printed a sign of its own and set up a rack, too.

"Next thing you know, we had people dropping off hangers, dropping off coats," Crespo marvels. "It was all very fast — it was very exciting how quickly everyone wanted to help out."

And just as amazing, perhaps, is that the racks seem to be working. Two days after Guerrilla Street Food put up its rack, an RFT photographer snapped the photo above, showing it positively laden with the generosity of its neighbors.

The restaurant pulls the rack in at closing time and keeps an eye on it during the day, Crespo says, but the donations have come in steadily without any additional effort. "As soon as they come down, you get worried," he notes. "But as soon as the coats go away, new coats come."

Crespo hasn't seen any other businesses pick up on the idea yet, but he hopes others will follow Cherokee Street's lead. "It takes about zero effort," he says.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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