Meeting and knowing women who bring warmth and light into the world has been one of the great privileges of my life. But it was nevertheless serendipitous to meet Suzanne Davis on the celebration day of Santa Lucia, when she was setting up shop in Grand Central Station before the busy commute of Friday morning. Suzanne had the bright idea 25 years ago to provide comfort to cold New Yorkers by encouraging people to donate their old or excess coats. She teamed up with New York Cares, the largest volunteer management organization in the city, to devise a system whereby people can take their old coats to police stations and drop-off points to be sorted and filtered through 400 registered non-profit shelters. Last year a record 123,000 coats were recycled through the system. Hats off to Suzanne.
Santa Lucia would definitely have approved. On December 13th, in a festival of lights and renewal, Scandinavians celebrate her bringing light into the winter darkness. A young woman in white robes wears a crown of lit candles on her head and, as at Scandinavia House last night, sings traditional songs with a procession of carolers. Those lit candles may have caused some consternation, but on a freezing night it was as though the Christmas angels had come to life.
Unfortunately another tradition was broken this year with the MTA not giving free advertising on the subway and buses for the coat drive. Donations have fallen drastically. So come on Aussie come on – if you are heading back to the glorious summer of Australia and no longer need that heavy coat, call into the local precinct or see Suzanne next to track 17….