REED CITY — Michigan winters can be extremely harsh, with temperatures dropping into negative digits, and some local residents struggle to keep warm each winter.

However, for those in need, a wide selection of warm winter clothing, coats, hats, mittens, scarves and boots are readily available free of charge for men, women and children of all ages and sizes. Racks and shelves of such items are spread throughout the floors of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Reed City, located at the corner of Chestnut and Bittner streets.

Sponsored by the Reed City Area Ministerial Association, 13 churches and their parishioners donate new and gently used clothing items throughout the year on a regular basis. Volunteers Barbara Young, Tammy Young, Phyllis Cool, Mary Lou Proefrock, Janet Welsh and others make it a priority to help collect, sort, organize and prepare the donations for distribution between 2 and 4 p.m. every Tuesday.

The cause of helping others is special to their hearts.

"We realize there are people out there that need good, warm clothing," Cool said. "It feels great to be a part of this. It's not the product, but it's showing people they are loved."

Proefrock agreed.

"The need is there and we can fill it," she said. "That's exactly why we help. We have been here for 17 years and people still come in and say, 'We didn't know you were here.'"

In addition to church members, local organizations host drives to collect more winter items, and residents who know how to knit and crochet often create winter items year-round to give to the center.

"Everyone is welcome to take as many items as they need. We have no shortage," Barbara said.

Winter outerwear is housed in the upper level of the church, and patrons can try on a wide selection of coats and coordinating accessories. While many items have been gently used in the past, some pieces still contain retail tags, as donors take advantage of discounted prices when winter turns to spring.

The group also works with Marion, Evart, Pine River and Reed City school districts, so when school staff notice a child in need, warm items can be provided. Between 300 and 400 coats were given away last year, and the women expect to meet that number again this year, but add they will not have a shortage to hand out.

"We have more than plenty and we want people to come and feel like they can come back again," Cool said. "Do not hesitate to come and bring your family."

Donations of new or gently used clothes, coats and other winter items are always welcome and can be dropped off at the church during between 2 and 4 p.m.

For more information or to volunteer, call Mary Lou Proefrock at (231) 832-4938.