~ Submitted by Margaret Donovan on behalf of the 2021 John Dodge Coat Drive
The 36th Annual John Dodge Coat Drive was held on Saturday, November 6, a day that was as bright and warm as John Dodge’s smile. From 8 AM to dusk there was a steady stream of visitors and by the end of the day, hundreds of coats had been bagged. Missing was John’s right-hand man for more than a dozen years, Nick Stavropoulos, due to a foot injury. But his sidekick Richard Hughes was there to pass the coat drive torch to Captain Mark Sullivan of the Bedford Fire Department. The year before the pandemic interfered, Mark had left his business card with Nick and said he would be glad to help with future drives. This year, it was decided that the best way to preserve John’s “Help the Homeless” legacy that means so much to so many who are helped each year would be to put it into Captain Sullivan’s caring hands.
Mark, who oversees the Toys for Children Drive in December, intends to maintain the current late October/early November schedule for the coat drive. He also wants to continue to set up on the grounds of the Bedford Funeral Home, where Maureen Duffy and Christine Graham welcomed John after his traditional location across the street was closed for construction of the current shopping center. The connection to the Bedford Fire Department is especially heartwarming because it would mean a lot to John, whose father Richard Dodge was the department’s Chief from 1939 until his death in 1961.
John Dodge was known as a practical joker and his motto was “the world needs more laughter”, but he took to heart the desperate need of people who he would refer to as “down on their luck” and was driven to help them. The coats that the people of Bedford donate—thousands over the years—don’t just warm the body, they warm the hearts and the spirits of hundreds of men and women each year. St. Francis House is the largest day shelter in Massachusetts.