When Ezra Zimmerman set out to collect 1,000 coats this winter for Open Door Shelter in Norwalk, he didn’t know if his goal was attainable.
After a few collections around town, the owner of EZ Moving and EZ Junk Removal would soon discover that the bar wasn’t set high enough.
In December and January, Ridgefielders donated more than 1,100 coats to Zimmerman’s drive — all of which were driven to Norwalk and distributed to the impoverished.
“I was shocked,” Zimmerman said. “The goal was 1,000, but I didn’t think we were going to hit that number. The fact we surpassed it was pretty cool.”
It wasn’t Zimmerman’s first time collecting clothes for Open Door.
In December 2016, he collected 275 coats for the shelter. Four months later, he was putting collection bins around town for a clothing drive that benefited those less fortunate in the Norwalk area.
The key to this year’s success? More drop-off locations.
“The addition of Ridgefield Supply was huge,” Zimmerman said. “They collected twice as many as any other location. …
“We also had some collection sites in Wilton that added to the total.”
Pete Rossini, who traveled with Zimmerman to Houston to help Hurricane Harvey victims in September 2017, donated about 200 coats.
“That was huge — we reached a fifth of the goal right off the bat.”
The connection to Open Door was a simple one. Zimmerman had attempted to drop off his coats at a Danbury shelter in 2016 but they had no room for the donations. The clothing — most of it new or lightly used jackets for men, women and children — went to the next closest shelter.
“I contacted our neighbor to the north (Danbury) and they couldn’t take the coats, so I thought that the most logical thing to do was to contact the city that neighbors us to the south,” he said. “I called, they said they take donations 24 hours, seven days a week, and that’s how the connection was made.”
Fulfilling a need
Zimmerman’s most recent drive also yielded 10 large bags full of toiletries that were dropped off to Open Door.
Why toothbrushes and coats?
“That was the need that the shelter expressed,” he said. “And we were looking to fulfill that need.”
Zimmerman’s passion for charity work started in 2014 when he was moving a person into a Ridgefield Housing Authority residence on Prospect Ridge.
“I was assisting this woman, and I saw that her bed was in pretty horrible shape,” he recalled. “She had no family, so I took matters into my own hands and bought her a new mattress and some bedding. … She was in tears when I dropped it all off and gave me the biggest hug, and it felt nice.”
Since then, he’s aimed to use his free time to give back to those less fortunate.
“There are some things that people who work 9 to 5 can’t do,” he said. “I’m self-employed, so the schedule allows me to do more with charities. … I like using my time this way.
Zimmerman, who raised more than $15,000 on GoFundMe in less than a week to help Harvey victims, said he’s been doing something charitable every four months for the past four years. He wants to ramp that effort up significantly 2018.
“I think there’s more to this than just a volunteer effort on the side of a moving company,” he said. “Call it a gut feeling.”
He believes there’s an opportunity to create a nonprofit in Ridgefield that specializes in emergency relief — bringing goods to victims of hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters.
“The goal would be to have a set amount of funds ready in the bank,” Zimmerman said. “That way you’re ready to go at any moment and you don’t have to wait on a GoFundMe when something like Texas, Florida or Puerto Rico happens.”
Anyone who is interested in or has questions about what Zimmerman has planned going forward email [email protected]