By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Coat drive turns into a warm holiday festival
By Beth Volpert Johansen

Rachel Finch, of Randy’s Nursery in Lawrenceville spends her days in what she readily describes as a stress-free zone right in the middle of town. When the business adopted Lawrenceville Elementary, they brought a little of Randy’s to the school by way of maintaining their ponds and encouraging students to visit the tropical haven for encounters with turtles and koi trained to eat from a baby bottle set among the flowers and trees. But the business’ outreach became far more involved once they learned that many children were in need of warm winter coats. 

Rachel Finch organized a simple coat drive last year to benefit Lawrenceville Elementary’s Hope Pantry, but the local business got a late start. I thought 45 days would be enough time,” says Rachel. “We collected 425 coats last year and we hope for more than 1000 this year.” Despite the short planning time last year, one of the most remarkable outcomes of Rachel’s work was the generosity of local businesses, especially several local barber and beauty salons. “The children who attended the event received gift cards for hair cuts,” says Rachel. “Many of the parents were able to enjoy a wash and dry at a salon too.” 

rand 190With collection boxes at several Lawrenceville Square and surrounding businesses, Rachel feels they will reach their goal. To celebrate and distribute the collected coats, Randy’s will sponsor a festival among the Christmas Trees from 1-5 on December 12th. “We will hold the festival rain or shine,” says Rachel. “There will be a petting zoo donated by Yellow River Game Ranch, food vendors, a cookie walk and live music...and Santa will be there.”

Excited by the event, Lawrenceville Elementary is looking forward to this year’s festival. “As the weather grows colder, many students come to school without a coat,” says Principal Lisa Johnson. “The coat drive provides the students with the warmth needed to start the day, ensuring that all of our students have a coat to wear at the bus stop, during recess and at home to play around the neighborhood.” 
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Motivated by her own blessings, Rachel has worked all year to ensure enough donation boxes will be placed throughout the Lawrenceville area businesses. “The downtown square businesses will have them,” says Rachel. “Last year, we had lots of support from McCrays, Ingles, and Wild Wing so that we were able to bless several families.” Knowing that children will be warm and able to learn is Rachel’s mission. “I scream it from the rooftops,” says Rachel. “A child can’t be in the right state of mind for learning if they are cold; I can provide my own children with a warm coat and it is a blessing to help provide for other children too.” 

The Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree Festival is open to the public and is made possible by the hard work of volunteers and local business. Like many community efforts in and around Lawrenceville, the festival began as one person’s dream to help a child stay warm and has grown to include an entire community in need. “Lawrenceville Elementary School is so fortunate to have continued support from the community with donations of coats, school supplies and filling our bags of hope food pantry” says Principal Johnson. 

For more information visit: www.randysnursery.com and plan to visit the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree Festival on Dec 12th from 1-5.  And please consider cleaning out your closet or purchasing a new coat to donate to the coat drive boxes placed all around Lawrenceville.