The average low temperature during the winter months in Madison, Wisconsin, the city where Wesley Matthews grew up and still lives during the offseason, is about 13 degrees Fahrenheit. Growing up in those conditions, one quickly learns the importance of owning a good, warm coat.
While it doesn't get as cold here in Oregon, the omnipresent rain, coupled with temperatures which are still rather cold by most any standard, makes a good winter coat as important a commodity here as it is in Madison. Which is one of the reasons why Matthews, for the third-straight year, has teamed up with Fred Meyer for a winter coat drive benefiting the Portland Activities League.
"I wanted to do something different," said Matthews. "That was my biggest thing. I wanted to do something different with the opportunity that I have as a basketball player, as a role model. It's rainy here in Portland. Got to keep people dry."
Matthews and Fred Meyer has been asking the public to donate their new and gently used coats, but their participation hasn't been limited to raising awareness. On Nov. 11 Matthews, added by a group of 20 kids from the Portland Activities League, bought stacks and stacks of new coats
at the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer to donate. After that Matthews rewarded the group from PAL for helping him shoo by purchasing two items of their own choice for each kid, many of whom selected coats for themselves.
So while Matthews was doing something great for the community by purchasing and donating coats, he was also teaching a lesson to the kids from PAL. Giving is its own reward, but a new jacket and hat is nice, too.
"First thing I want them to do is to do something good for somebody else," said Matthews. "I want them to have that gratification, that understanding, and hopefully develop a habit to do something good. And the reward is I did something for them. But I don't want them coming in to it thinking 'I'm going to do this so I can get something else.' I want them to be a part of it because 'I want to take care of help my friends out.'"
For some, the coat Matthews and Fred Meyer donated might be the only new thing they get this holiday season. And while the main point of the coat drive is to keep kids warm, Matthews says there's something important about every kid having something nice of their own.
"Something that they can cherish, hold onto," said Matthews. "Something that they know is theirs, something they want to protect. I feel it builds something for later."
Matthews will be signing autographs and collecting new and gently used coats at the Fred Meyer on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway this Saturday from 3 - 4:30 p.m. And you can donate coats at any Portland-area Fred Meyer until Nov. 18.