Ruiyan Wang, Contributing Photographer

As the cold weather sets in, the Afro-American Cultural Center has found a way to help the New Haven community — by collecting winter clothing.

From Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, the Afro-American Cultural Center is holding a “Winter Essentials Drive” to collect winter clothing for donations and raise funds for toiletry care packages. The drive is a partnership between the Af-Am House and the Kappa Delta and Zeta chapters of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

“There’s already such a high number of people with housing insecurity in New Haven, and to compound that with COVID-19, it just made sense for us to try to help out,” Community Connections Coordinator Jaelen King ’22 said. 

The House has set up several different locations across New Haven for people to drop off their donations. Drop-off sites include public spaces like the St. Thomas More Catholic Center and Chapel as well as commercial sites like LL Bean, Beauty Plus, and Patagonia.

Assistant Chaplin Allan Esteron of STM told the News he thinks the clothing drive will help a lot of people in the New Haven community. He said that the drop-off site has already collected eight bags of clothes.

“Every year in our soup kitchen, we encounter people in need of warm clothing during the winter,” said Esteron. “Some of them stay outdoors in freezing temperatures. I would sometimes see guests with no gloves or wearing a worn-out jacket during a very cold day. A winter clothing drive is really a great way to help them stay warm and protected.”

King said he believes the clothing drive provides Yale students a way to connect with the New Haven community. In a regular year, King said, students usually have more opportunities to interact with the city and its residents.

“Hopefully with this drive, people can more or less destroy those boundaries that Yale puts up,” King said. “Even though we are not able to do anything physically in person, it’s important to still show that there are people in the Yale community that care about what happens outside the gates of Yale.”

After the donated clothes are collected at the drop off sites, King said they will be cleaned and sanitized, then given to the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. 

Alpha Phi Alpha plans to do a giveaway of these clothes over the weekend of the Nov. 20. The list of local organizations that will be receiving the clothes has not been finalized. 

The House plans on distributing the toiletry care packages at their upcoming Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 19. There, they will be passing out prepackaged meals along with the case packages. 

Keylalee Rivera-Nieves, a member of the Sigma Iota Alpha chapter, thinks of the clothing drive as a way to unite the community.

“I got involved in this event because I already work with individuals that are at risk or currently facing homelessness, food insecurity or financial hardship, and this program is the perfect opportunity to make a meaningful impact by bringing our community together,” Rivera-Nieves said. 

The Kappa Delta chapter is based in Hartford at the University of Connecticut, while the Zeta chapter is a city-wide chapter based in New Haven, with connections to Yale, the University of New Haven and Southern Connecticut State University.

Alex Ori | alex.ori@yale.edu