This past weekend, Minneapolis–St. Paul residents saw Mother Nature bringing her own version of holiday cheer -- in the form of 16 inches of snow. The mass of flurries meant the start to a traditionally long, cold winter, one that’s even more difficult for area residents who can’t afford protective clothing.
That’s why, during his rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2008, Kevin Love decided he wanted to help.
The 6-foot-10 NBA All-Star partnered with Comcast and the Salvation Army to organize a coat drive, asking fans and local residents to donate new or gently used coats to be given to those in need.
“I had no idea what to expect the first year,” Love says. “I donated a few of my coats -- I scrounged around and found as many as I could -- and a lot of folks jumped on board. I think we got 400 that year, but now we’re well over a thousand.”
Now in its fifth season, the coat drive received well over 1,000 donations since Nov. 14. The drive, which had eight drop-off locations, ended on December 12. Next week, Love will load the coats into his car and deliver them to the Salvation Army.
To thank those who donate, Love purchased game tickets to the Timberwolves' Dec. 26 game versus Houston and the Dec. 29th game against Phoenix. For each coat donated, a fan received a pair of tickets while supplies lasted.
In recent years, social media has given the drive more exposure. This year, the Timberwolves' video media operations staff filmed a "commercial" of sorts starring Love as well as several of his teammates. The film, titled "The Session," has been viewed more than 80,000 times on YouTube and received attention from various news sites, including The Huffington Post. The clip was also shown during Minnesota home games.
One scene shows Love, dressed in a tan overcoat and dark wig, playing the saxophone. Perhaps it's a nod to the musical genes in his family -- Kevin’s uncle Mike is a member of the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson is his cousin and two of his aunts are professional harp players.
“They always come up with some good ideas [for the video] and some bad,” Love says, laughing. “They mostly hit it on the head and find different ways to make it fun.”
Several teammates have cameos in the video, including Jose Juan Barea and Nikola Pekovic.
And while the videos are entertaining, Love says his favorite part of the process is meeting the coat recipients. “When I go over and give the coats, it’s a lot of fun and something that puts a smile on my face,” Love says. “It makes you feel good.”
Love began personally handing over the donated coats last year. Afterward, he spoke to the folks gathered at the Salvation Army, thanking them for allowing him the opportunity. He met with several recipients afterward, who in turn thanked him for organizing the donations and presenting them to those in need.
An April article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune focused on the rising homeless population in the Twin Cities' suburbs, noting that “homelessness has quadrupled over four years in Washington County. ... In Dakota County, where the homeless population exceeds 1,000 for the first time, it's grown 20 percent the past year -- from 841 in 2011 to 1,013 this year.”
Hopefully this winter, some of that population will be a little warmer thanks to Love.