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Keeping Bodies and Hearts Warm with Project Warm
story and photo by Cody Moore

Project Warm, a nonprofit organization founded by Jonesboro native Bethany Davis, works to provide coats and other articles of warm clothing paired with a positive message to those in need, a necessity that is most urgent during the coldest months of the year.

Davis, who graduated from Arkansas State University with a doctor of physical therapy degree earlier this year, currently works as a physical therapist at NEA Baptist and is a freelance writer and retail worker on the side. Davis also works as a yoga instructor at St. Bernards Health & Wellness, something she has been passionate about for several years.

“I have been instructing yoga for over four years now, which feels absolutely crazy to say,” said Davis. “My love for yoga developed in college during my undergraduate education, and I became certified at 22. I taught through graduate school and am still going strong today.”

Though Davis remains busy with all of her occupations, she recalls the moment two years ago that gave her the initial idea to begin her own nonprofit organization.

“I was actually studying with a friend at Starbucks for final exams when I realized how grateful I was to be inside, warm and drinking my hot coffee, while there are people who have to stay outside at every hour of the day because they don’t have a place to go,” said Davis.

Following that realization, Davis began Project Warm, a nonprofit organization that places coats and scarves on poles and trees in Jonesboro for those in need to take for themselves during the cold winter months. Positive notes are written by members of the community and attached to every warm item that is distributed, as well.

“While I can’t provide shelter to every single person who is outside in the cold, I could at least provide them with layers,” said Davis. “I had seen photos in bigger cities where people were tying scarves and coats to light poles and I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t we do this here?’”

“I started Project Warm as a fun project with friends and people I know through social media in December of 2018,” said Davis. “I had a friend make a logo, I had a box made, I gathered friends to write positive notes for the jackets at The Edge Coffeehouse and then we distributed them.”

Because of Project Warm’s success in 2018, Davis decided to continue her work into the next winter season. Project Warm was officially named a nonprofit organization in November 2019, and the rest is history.

“Project Warm’s mission is to provide warm clothing items with a positive message to residents of the city during the winter months of December, January and February, showing how powerful encouragement, giving and community is,” said Davis. “We bring the coat drive to the community.”

Before going out into Jonesboro and placing all of the jackets, scarves and other warm items, Project Warm must first collect an abundance of warm items through donations made by members of the community. Project Warm currently accepts jackets, scarves, beanies, gloves and mittens.

“Project Warm collaborates with a local business to collect coats on a certain day and to write notes on a certain day,” said Davis. “After that, volunteers then tie the notes to the collected items, and we drive out together to tie the coats on light poles and trees in different areas of the city.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year we are addressing it a bit differently by keeping everyone distanced and safe, but luckily we will still be able to distribute safely.”

Although Davis, along with all Project Warm volunteers, has discovered the best spots to place the warm items over the past two years, the nonprofit has also received help from community leaders.

“We stay connected with the local police department and shelters in the community to have a better understanding of where the most foot traffic is and where coats would be most beneficial,” said Davis.

Aside from placing the coats and other warm items in different areas in the city, Davis also wanted Project Warm to serve as a reminder that kindness still exists in today’s world. This is why handwritten, heartfelt notes can be found attached to each item that is distributed.

“I think that anyone can drop off a coat and feel good about doing so, and if you’re the person receiving the coat that also feels good,” said Davis. “However, in a world of polarization, harsh words and criticism, judgement and what doesn’t feel like a lot of support, the handwritten note is the most important part of our coat drive.

“To know that people in your community are not just giving you a warm item, but to know that someone took the time to write down something supportive that could make your day better, that is absolutely priceless. The notes are meant to bring us together by showing kindness in a very simple form; it’s all about recognizing that the person giving the warm item and the person receiving it have a lot more in common than we realize.”

This month, Project Warm will have a public donation box available at The Forum Theatre in Downtown Jonesboro Dec. 9-11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. In conjunction with The Foundation of Arts’ production of “The Nutcracker,” guests in attendance of the Dec. 11 opening will have the opportunity to write a positive note that will then be attached to a donated warm item before its distribution.

“One downside of Project Warm is that we often don’t get to see the persons who we give warm items to,” said Davis. “I was driving in an area in which we had distributed warm items and I saw a teenage boy walking down the road wearing a coat that we had just left. A few times our volunteers have been approached and thanked. Also, we see the majority of the warm items gone in a week.

“All of the items in Jonesboro that are not collected after one week are donated to The HUB Homeless Resource Center,” said Davis.
Though Project Warm had high hopes for its growth in 2020, Davis is thankful that the organization and its volunteers are still able to provide comfort to those in need during this troubling year.

“Project Warm had plans to expand to other cities in the U.S. this year, but because of the pandemic, we decided to focus our efforts locally to keep it more manageable, to travel less and make our home base stronger,” said Davis. “As Project Warm grows, we hope to be able to share warm items with a positive message in other cities across the nation by doing the kind, little things.”

For more information about Project Warm or to learn how to become a volunteer, visit projectwarmnonprofit.com, send an email to project.warm.nonprofit@gmail.com or send a direct message to Project Warm via Facebook or Instagram.