I’ve always known our customers are special. But every time we sponsor a charity drive and our customers come through, I’m reminded why I love this business.

Our 7th annual COAT SWAP ended in October 2011, and I’m proud to say that our customers donated more than 2000 coats to drop-off boxes in our seven stores. Mountain Hardwear and WL Gore co-sponsored the drive. We’ve donated the coats to local rescue missions across the state, where they will be given to our neediest neighbors.

Bruce Storer, director of development for the Raleigh Rescue Mission in downtown Raleigh, tells us they have received hundreds of coats from customers of our Raleigh store. “It’s a significant gift,” he said. “This is the time of year that we really need coats as well as food and blankets. We’re blessed to have this relationship with Great Outdoor Provision Co.”

On behalf of Bruce, the staff at the other missions, and all our employees, I’d like to thank those of you who took the time to donate your coats. You have truly made a difference in someone’s life.

If you want to do more—or are looking for volunteer opportunities this season—local shelters and missions always need warm clothes, blankets and food during the winter. Here’s a list of rescue missions in the eight communities we do business in; you can call them or check their Web sites for the best way to help:

The annual Coat Swap program is one of several philanthropic efforts the Great Outdoor Provision Co. and its customers help support. Others include Habitat for Humanitylocal land trustsScouting (both boy’s and girl’s organizations), and the N.C Wildlife Federation