Elora Tacke, 38, waits in line for warm clothing for her daughter Tuesday at St. Vincent de Paul in Medford after an anonymous donor sent a semitrailer full of winter clothing. - Bob Pennell

Mystery coats

Mail Tribune

It arrives, like clockwork, every November, just when the nights turn bitter cold: a semitrailer filled with pallets of coats, sweatshirts, blankets and socks for those who've turned to Medford's St. Vincent de Paul for help.

No one knows who sent it. Just that the brand-new items have been shipped from Seattle for the past three years.

"Last year we tried to find the donor, but when we called the trucking company they had no information," said Len Hebert, president of the St. Vincent Rogue Valley District Council.

Four different manufacturers are included in this year's shipment. There are John Deere sweatshirts, B&B Dakota coats, Agua blankets and Hanes socks. The truckload always contains a variety of sizes and colors.

Elora Tacke, 38, stopped on her way to work in Central Point to stand in a line she never expected to be in — hoping to get a warm coat for herself and her 8-year-old daughter.

Last year Tacke shared a $70,000-a-year income as part owner and manager of a guest ranch until she fled from an abusive relationship, taking her daughter with her, she said. She's been working two full-time but low-paying jobs. She's also sold her own plasma. Whatever it takes as she scrambles to keep clothes on their backs and food in their bellies, Tacke said.

"That (life has) come and gone. My little girl gets food and I eat crackers and water. At the end of the month I have 50 cents to a dollar left," Tacke said.

St. Vincent de Paul has been a regular source for sustenance and clothing, she said.

"I've been coming to St. Vinney's all spring and all summer," Tacke said.

Being on the flip-side of charity is challenging for the single mother who was able to give to others year-round in her former life. But she tries to keep positive. And if she has an extra nickel that someone else needs more, they can have it, she said.

"You do the best you can for yourself and others. There's always someone worse off than you are," Tacke said.

Those who would judge others in need may be in for a reality check down the road, Tacke said. She's met many other former professionals who are now needing the shelter's help.

"I've met contractors, Realtors and teachers here. We're all just looking at each other. Trying to make it. People (who judge) they don't get it. And they won't, until their job is come and gone and they don't have it either," Tacke said.

Whoever is filling this winter's wish list is very aware of the needs in the Rogue Valley, said Kathy Morgan, vice president of outreach for the Medford shelter. The donor takes time to figure out how many kids' sweatshirts and coats are needed and how many and what sizes the adults need, she said.

Last year St. Vincent was able to share the coats with other social service agencies. That probably won't be the case this year, however.

The Catholic charity is seeing such an increase in clients that the coats and blankets are not going to go as far as last year.

"We're seeing 15 percent more people every day," Morgan said.

On Sunday, St. Vincent provided a traditional turkey dinner for 285 folks in its dining room. Three hundred coats, socks and hats were given to the homeless.

Winter wear given away Tuesday ranged from size 2T (toddler) to 4X adults. More than 400 coats went out the door.

Llamas and Llambs boutique in Jacksonville also added several hundred homemade hats to be given to those in need.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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