(CBS) — Omar Hussain says it started as a pot luck with his friends.
“I brought my friends together at my home in Bucktown for a pot luck and asked everyone to bring a coat to donate,” he tells WBBM’ Lisa Fielding.
That night, they brought in about 50 coats. Five years and 4,000 coats later, it’s evolved to include incentives from the business community.
“We have various nightclubs, restaurants, salons all doing their part as well. For those who can’t make this weekend’s events, all the venues and pickup locations are offering incentives to those who donate a coat,” Hussain says.
“STK Chicago is giving a $50 dining credit to anyone who donates a coat, Reverie Salon is doing a free blow out for women, a free hair cut for men for any donation, things like that.”
Over the years, Hussain says, he’s realized how much a coat means to people, especially around the holidays.
“I realized, just in Chicago alone, there are so many people in need, especially in Chicago. Initially, I wanted to do a toy drive, and when I started speaking to the people at Knights of Columbus they said, ‘Toys are great, but what we really need are coats.’ Now, we’ve speeded up the event so we can get the coats to people before Christmas.”
This year’s Coat drive begins 8 p.m. Saturday at ArtSpace8, 900 N. Michigan Ave.
“We have complimentary cocktails, food, entertainment, DJs and even a Santa. Admission is free. All we ask for is a coat donation,” Hussain says.
Hussain hopes to collect 1,200 coats this year that will be passed along to Volunteers of America and the Knights of Columbus.
“It’s really become a magical journey. What started off in a basement has grown into 500-people strong. It’s really nice to see all the Chicago venues come together to help,” he says.