Buy Nothing Day Coat Exchange Brings Hope to Those in Need

Choice is a wonderful gift that we have been granted, and the upcoming Black Friday will offer an array of choices for people. Stores will be rolling out deals good enough to cause early morning stampedes as consumers jockey for money-saving position, and money will be spent lavishly as the Christmas season officially begins.

Then there are those who have a much more difficult choice to make: buy groceries or heat the home. Replace a tattered coat or put gas in the car. Black Friday can be more of a pipedream to people struggling financially, That’s where the Buy Nothing Day (BND) Coat Exchange comes to the rescue. Started 20 years ago, this annual event has benefited many Rhode Islanders, building a community in the process.

Greg Gerritt founded this event, and writes an annual essay explaining the importance of the Buy Nothing Day Coat Exchange. He is a fierce advocate for those in need. He recently decided to step down, and when he announced that he was seeking his replacement, Lauren Testoni and her mother, Pam, immediately responded that they were ready and willing to take on this endeavor. Pam had been involved for the past 10 years, and Lauren joined a few years later. Greg showed them the ropes last year, and this will be their first year running the show.


The name of the event pretty much says it all. People donate coats, hats, scarves and other warm gear, and others can pick up a new one. Everyone involved in this project is there for the same reason: To help someone in need. Lauren says that many of the volunteers started as attendees in need of a coat, paying it forward.

“Our aim is to have a coat for every person who comes to the sites across the state,” Lauren says of the project’s ultimate goal. “Ultimately, we would love to live in a world where we don’t need coat drives, but until then, you can find us in front of the State House the day after Thanksgiving, every year.”

The BND Coat Exchange started as a grassroots campaign. While it has grown in both size and community participants, it still maintains the same philosophy.

“This day not only bucks the over-the-top consumerism of Black Friday, but also calls attention to socioeconomic disparity, social justice inequalities, mental health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.” Gerritt calls this “the perfect blend of each of those issues.”

“This is such a feel-good event and it just shows that people in Providence and across the state want to be a part of it.”

It is important to spread the word, especially to those in need of warm clothes at this time of year. There are 37 exchange sites throughout the state, including all of the local YMCAs (see below for full listing), in addition to the State House. The best part of this event is that everyone walks away a winner, whether they donated, volunteered or acquired a new coat.

“Everyone has a story,” Lauren states. “Any one of us can fall on hard times and need some extra help. We hope this event makes things a little easier, a little more comfortable and a lot more hopeful for all who attend.”

The BND Winter Coat Exchange takes place on Friday, November 24: 

State House lawn in Providence from 9 am – 1 pm

Salvation Army (102 High St Pawtucket) from 10 am – 2 pm

St. Patrick’s Church (301 Broad St Cumberland) from 9 am – 11 am
St. Paul’s Methodist Church (12 Marlborough St Newport) from 10 am – 2 pm
St Francis Assisi Church (114 High St Wakefield) from 10 am – 12 pm

Most YMCA’s (check listings) from 9 am – 12 pm

Please email for more information