Dry cleaner saves school's coat campaign Arthur Slade drive benefits homeless

The students at Arthur Slade Regional Catholic School in Ferndale apparently made too much of a good thing when they began collecting coats for the needy.

Local dry cleaners, who were sponsoring a program to clean and repair the coats before giving them to local charities, turned down the truckload or so that the middle school students had collected.


Apparently, 520 coats in one haul was too much for some of the retailers -- even though they voluntarily signed up for the program.

The youngsters thought they were stuck with the old coats until Janice McIntosh, their principal, called Chris Fisher, who runs Cleaning By Chris in Pastore's Plaza on Mountain Road.


Mr. Fisher, 32, not only took all the coats, but he got his staff to volunteer time on Saturday to clean and press them, and to mend any tears they might find.

Mr. Fisher's 5-year-old store has been part of the coat giveaway program every year.

Ms. McIntosh appreciates his enthusiasm, especially this year. "A lot of area stores just didn't want to be bothered," she said. "That's disappointing. Mr. Fisher was the only cleaner who would help us out."

The program is called Coats For Kids, but it includes coats for everybody. It was started by the Dry Cleaners Association of Maryland and is co-sponsored by WBAL radio and television.

Mr. Fisher said he typically gets about 100 coats, which are given to the Salvation Army and other charities or shelters after being cleaned, pressed and repaired. But this year, with the help of the school, the Pasadena store has close to 600 to give away.

"This year is kind of a special occasion for us," Mr. Fisher said. "It makes us feel good to do something like this."

Coats For Kids is a spinoff of another dry cleaner-sponsored charity called Clean Streets. In that program, dry cleaners offer to clean for free an outfit an unemployed person plans to wear for a job interview.

Mr. Fisher said dry cleaners have a bad image with people who think they pollute the environment with chemicals. "This is to let people know we are involved in the community," he said.


And for the students at Arthur Slade, Mr. Fisher's generosity proves that goodwill exists. "This was a perfect project," Ms. McIntosh said. "It is something the students could connect with -- coats for children.

"Coats are expensive," the principal said. "I just have one child and know how much they cost."

Ms. McIntosh said 180 students -- sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders -- collected all 520 coats in two weeks. They advertised and made frequent announcements over the school's public address system.

When other dry cleaners refused to take the full load of coats, Ms. McIntosh said, she contacted WBAL, which promised to send National Guard volunteers to pick up the coats and divide them into smaller loads for several dry cleaners.

Then Ms. McIntosh found Mr. Fisher, who solved the problem.

"This cleaner who took the coats is wonderful," she said.