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Bedford man holds annual coat drive for St. Francis House

For more than 25 years, John Dodge has been working with Boston’s St. Francis House , raising money and collecting clothing donations for the more than 800 poor and homeless people who rely on the shelter’s services.

On Saturday, Bedford’s 90-year-old town historian will stand at his usual spot on Great Road, in front of the Bedford Shopping Center, from 8 a.m. to dusk collecting winter outerwear to donate to the shelter.

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Dodge said St. Francis House, New England’s largest day shelter, needs men’s, women’s, and children’s coats, as well as hats, scarves, sweaters, and gloves — any clothing that provides protection against the harsh winter chill.

Last year, Dodge collected more than 200 coats, adding to the 5,000 he has donated to the shelter since starting the coat drive. He said he hopes to at least match last year’s figure.

“I’ve been involved with St. Francis House for 25 years now; it’s my hobby,” he said. Dodge also stood outside John Glenn Middle School, Bedford’s polling place, on Election Day collecting funds for the organization. He was able to raise $2,500 from voters and passersby.

In the late 1990s, Dodge, a graphic artist, donated his own artwork to decorate the walls of St. Francis House’s 56-unit housing division. Since then he has donated significant personal funds to furnish and update the shelter.

“I’m so glad to be able to do what I’m doing,” he said.

Founded in 1984, St. Francis House provides meals, showers, clothing, access to medical care, mail and ID services, mental health and substance abuse counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and supported housing to poor and homeless men and women. The Boylston Street facility is open 365 days a year, and Dodge said it has one of the best records of getting homeless people back to work.

Laura Franzini can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at laurafranzini.
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