Updated: Friday, October 11 2013, 05:06 PM EDTTen years ago this month a drive began to protect the homeless and the otherwise needy in Asheville.What happens in October could go a long way to saving lives in December.Our Person of the Week has played a major role in coats for the cold because what he gives is a clean start in the winter. When November comes, what happened in October will make all the difference.A collection of donated coats goes to those who need them most. They'll go to people like Paul Russ who was once homeless, "that first year I was here six years ago. Remember we had all that heavy snow? I didn't have a coat." Marvin Thomas, co-owner of Swannanoa Cleaners, makes sure they get them clean and ready to wear as he's done for ten years now."Can't believe it's been that long.""Marvin's attitude is extraordinarily humble. I don't know if you'd ever find anybody if you ever went up to him and talked to him he'd never tell you he did this kind of thing."Marvin Thomas is not a many of many words, he let's his cleaning do the talking for him.Over the years his business has taken coats donated from the community and cleaned them at no cost. He gives them to Western Carolina Rescue Ministries coats for the cold drive.Michael Bruder, Western Carolina Rescue Mission, "if you're figuring two dollars a coat. Oh my, it would be in the tens of thousands if not higher, no question"This week the boxes and barrels were placed in all seven Swannanoa Cleaners for donations to begin. And coats for the cold is not the only program Marvin Thomas's business is helping.Colleen Hogan, Swannanoa Cleaners, General Manager., "we've helped with prom dresses before. We're helping with breast cancer awareness with our plastic bags."They're making a difference in the lives of thousands by doing what they do best. An act of kindness that goes beyong cleaning. "they're giving it from the heart. And the person who receives it are thankful in their heart whether they express it, they're thankful in their heart."And when the coats are picked up for delivery, cleaned and handed out in November. Sometimes, not often, but once in a while Marvin Thomas gets a surprise. Marvin Thomas, "I've seen them on the street, coats I've recognized, unique coats that have come through the store."Coats for those at a time in their lives when their most basic needs are wrapped by the care of others. "It give you a warm feeling. It really does."Marvin Thomas
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