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Update: Union Gospel Mission attracts hundreds with downtown street fair

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - People in need are invited to head to the Union Gospel Mission's 14th annual Operation Overcoat block party today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Portland.Hundreds of the Portland area's homeless and low-income community received clothing and a meal Saturday during the Union Gospel Mission's 14th annual Operation Overcoat.

Union Gospel Mission hosts the street fair every September to provide winter clothes, shoes, boots and sleeping bags to people in need. Those who stopped by the block party between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. also enjoyed a free barbeque meal.

A total of 1,345 meals were served, and organizers estimate that more than 6,000 articles of clothing were distributed.

Northwest Third Avenue between Burnside and Couch streets and Couch Street between Northwest Third and Fourth avenues near the mission in downtown Portland were closed off for the free event.

Anyone who is homeless or in need was invited to take part in the block party that also offered dental services, haircuts and live music in a festive atmosphere.

Last year, Union Gospel Mission provided more than 2,000 meals and 6,000 articles of clothing at Operation Overcoat with the help of a dedicated group of 400 volunteers.

"We are prepared to match those numbers this year," said Stacy Kean, communications director for the Union Gospel Mission prior to the festivities. "Some items we go through quickly, so we encourage people to come early. If people need a specific thing like boots or shoes, socks or underwear, those tend to go really fast."

Upon arrival, guests decide if they would like to line up for food or clothing first. Everyone is given a ticket booklet to shop for essential items such as coats, jeans, sweaters, sleeping bags and more.

"This event is free and open to anyone in need," Kean said. "There is no screening required to participate. We just ask that they line up, follow instructions, come and enjoy."

Tents staffed by volunteers were set up to make it easier for guests to find what they needed. Areas were marked for women, children and men with clothing items arranged by size.

Volunteers also put together kits of hygiene products, and Medical Teams International's Mobile Dental Van provided dental checks and services for the 10th year at Operation Overcoat.

"The community came through really big for us," Kean said. "Many of our long-time supporters have stepped up."

Birch Community Services, through Danner Boots, provided four pallets of boots.

Coca-Cola in Wilsonville donated a pallet of water and a pallet of Coke Zero for the event.

Franz bakery provided a 40 percent discount on hamburger and hot dog buns for the event, and Sysco gave the Union Gospel Mission a substantial price break on hamburgers and turkey dogs, which were dished up and served.

Even Progress Ridge Cinetopia in Beaverton and 99.5 FM The Wolf pitched in by hosting a recent collection drive.

"More than 100 coats were collected that day alone," Kean said. "It was great to see all of the clothing people generously donated. We feel so blessed."

You can help

For more information on ways to support the Union Gospel Mission, visit

Starting in late October, the mission will launch its "Paper Turkey" drive, where donors are asked to give $25 to provide a gift certificate for a turkey and a Thanksgiving basket to a family in need. This is an all online campaign where people can give through the website.

In the meantime, if people want to do clothing drives with their church or school for the colder weather, the mission always need coats, hoodies (size L & XL especially), sleeping bags and new socks and underwear.

Volunteers are also always needed.

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