2 Chicago men provide sleeping bag coats for homeless population

FOX 32 NEWS - Two friends who now call Chicago home started a yearly tradition to give back to the community.

That promise has led to tens of thousands of dollars in donations, and those donations are now being used to help Chicago’s homeless population.

Every winter, Dan Chester and Robinson Elsdale ask each other one question: "What are we going to do this year?"

Chester and Elsdale have made it their mission to give back during the most brutal time to be on the streets of Chicago.

Elsdale asked, "why don't we give away sleeping bags."

Both men didn't know that idea would lead to a larger movement, providing the city's homeless population with sleeping bag coats.
The duo took their message to the public through a GoFundMe page.

"This was a far bigger project than we first anticipated," added Elsdale. "It was far more successful, the response from friends, family, complete strangers and even other organizations was quite astounding."

The friends teamed up with an organization in Detroit called the Empowerment Plan. The non-profit gives single mothers who have lived on the streets or in shelters the opportunity to make these coats.

"They manufacture a coat that actually transforms into a sleeping bag and then into a coat," added Chester. "And it can be carried, so it's light enough but it's also warm enough."

It is made with material from Carhartt and donations from General Motors.

"We figured this was the perfect match for what we wanted to do," Chester said.

Chester and Elsdale took the Empowerment coats to the streets in Chicago.

"Oh yes!", said one recipient. "Now that's stylish. Thank you!"

They were a big hit.

"I feel that more than ever we need to really take a look inside and think as to what we're doing for not just the people we love and the people closest to us, our friends, family, but strangers," added Elsdale. "We can make a huge impact."

So far, the duo has bought 135 coats and they're hoping to get more.

"I have no idea why it is some people end up on the streets and for all I know, I could be that very person," Chester said. "I would hope that my community, my neighborhood, my city would bond together to look out for me the same way that I'm trying to do for them."

A warm jacket, a warm embrace and an even more grateful heart.

The friends, so far, have raised nearly $14,000 and counting. 

If you'd like more information about how you can donate, here's the GoFundMe.

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