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Grab your coat...and give it to charity

Five more well-known women tell Helen Carson how they have joined AgeNI’s Spread the Warmth campaign

With more snow forecast, we all take having a warm home for granted, but what would it be like to shiver at home too afraid to put on the heat?

That is the reality for many elderly people in Northern Ireland, 70% of whom worry about staying warm in the winter.

For this reason, AgeNI, with the backing of the Belfast Telegraph, have been encouraging local celebrities to Donate A Coat.

Now, one of the province’s leading department stores wants to help the ‘Spread the Warmth’ campaign.

Menarys and Tempest, which have 25 stores province-wide, are asking style-conscious shoppers to have a rummage in their wardrobe and find a coat they are happy to give away.

And the good news is those who donate a coat will receive 20% off a new one and 10% off the last marked down price on a sale coat in most in-store shops including Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Warehouse, Jackpot and many more, until the end of this month.

“Menarys and Tempest stores are participating with AgeNI and all you have to do is bring any unwanted coats to the nearest till point in store,” says Jacqueline Beattie from Menarys/Tempest group.

Siobhan Casey, head of marketing AgeNI, added: “The donated coats will be sold on eBay or through our stores to raise much needed funds for the charity.”

Now some more well-known local personalities have come on board in a bid to boost the campaign.

Debby Armstrong (37), make-up artist and wife of Sky presenter and former Northern Ireland footballer, Gerry Armstrong (58). They have two daughters, Caitlin (9) and seven-year-old Marianna. She says:

The coat I am donating is a waist-length leather look bronze/brown zipped biker jacket with a detachable fur collar. It's a coat my husband Gerry bought for me when we were away on a family summer holiday in Miami last year.

It's a lovely jacket; you could dress it up or down. Even though it has a leather texture it is still very light to wear. I've worn it on more casual occasions than formal, such as concerts. It hasn't been worn very much so it's still in very good condition.

I hope its new owner will love it and get more wear out of it than I did. We're all going to be old some day and it would be nice to think somebody would do something for us when that day comes.”

Jo-Anne Dobson (47), UUP MLA Upper Bann, is married to John (50). They live in Waringstown with their two children Elliott (21) and Mark (19). She says:

I am donating a three-quarter length, bohemian style green velvet coat with beautiful embroidered floral detail at the front and on the sleeves.

It caught my eye a few years ago in a local boutique near Banbridge, and I have to say it is perfect with jeans and boots for walks in the country or when dressed up for evenings out.

I love the colours and luxurious feel of this coat and it will be a perfect fashion statement for someone else now. This campaign is a great way to donate directly to a worthy cause and I always donate clothes to local charity shops.”

Caroline Fleck (41), Downtown Radio presenter, lives in Coleraine with her 15-year-old son Jack. She says:

I spied this fabulous evening faux fur leopard skin print jacket at Portobello market in London about eight years ago.

 I love vintage clothes and at the time liked the idea of the coat having a story of its own before coming into my hands. I always imagined a very glamorous owner beforehand.

I’ve worn it to a few awards ceremonies over the years, but also down to the pub with a pair of jeans and although I love animal print, I have finally admitted defeat because it doesn’t love me. I’m delighted to help out with the Spread the Warmth campaign, it’s important to recognise that with an ageing society, older people need to be well cared for.

Claire McCollum (39), a freelance TV presenter lives in Greenisland with her husband Alastair Clarke and their two children Samuel (6) and four-year-old Rosa. She says:

My coat is what you could call an impulse buy around eight years ago. It’s a lightweight white rain mac with eye-catching bright red flowers.

This coat has also had its five minutes of fame as I wore it during filming at the famous Balmoral Show for the BBC three years ago.

As is often the case here in Northern Ireland it was raining that day so I decided my ‘cheerful' mac was just the thing to brighten up a dull day. I love this coat because of its quirkiness — and it never fails to cheer me up on a rainy day. I also like the fact that it’s quite long, I’ve always hated any clothes that cut you off at the waist.

Although I love the look of this coat, for some reason it is rarely out of the wardrobe.

And they say if you haven't worn something for over six months then it’s probably time for it to move on.

I really hope it finds its way into a loving home, someone who will take it out more than I did. Before Age Concern combined with Help the Aged in Northern Ireland to form AgeNI, I did a trek in Cuba to help raise vital funds for the charity. That was seven years ago and I'm delighted to be doing my bit to help again.”

Dolores Kelly (53), SDLP deputy leader, MLA Upper Bann. She is married to Eamon and they live in Aghagallon. They have four children, Caitriona (28), Fionnuala (26), Matthew (22) and Kathleen (19). She says:

I am donating a lovely black winter coat from Wallis — a staple that every woman should have in their wardrobe. It’s a great coat, perfect for those crisp winter mornings when I head out to the Stormont Assembly.

I have got lots of wear out of it season after season during the winter months, especially when out and about meeting constituents and also at the weekends when I like to take some time out and go for a long stroll.

I am very happy to donate this beloved coat to raise awareness of important issues.

Over 61.5% of our older people are living with fuel poverty and many are struggling to survive this winter. AgeNI together with Menarys and Tempest are helping to change that.”

Donate ... and get money off at Menarys

  • How donate a coat works:

If you wish to buy a new coat to replace the old one you have donated, Menarys will offer 20% off a new coat or 10% off the last marked down price on a sale coat

  • Where to donate your coat:

Brands taking part include: Steilmann, NTS, Jackpot, Dorothy Perkins, Izabel, Klass, Topshop, Warehouse, Miss Selfridge, Vero Moda, Only, Vila, Jack & Jones, Name It and Project T

  • About Spread the Warmth:

Spread the Warmth is a winter campaign to help older people prepare for and survive winter. For info go to:

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