Knowing that there are many, many people in desperate need of a coat, Dallas Mavericks guard J. J. Barea didn’t mind lending his name, time and money to the Raising Cane’s Winter Warmup campaign.

In partnership with Raising Cane’s, Barea and the Mavs are challenging fans to donate new and gently used coats, blankets and other winter items for families living in North Texas homeless shelters. The families who receive the winter items are involved in mitigating circumstances, and Barea doesn’t mind lending a helping hand to the cause.

“The coat drive is something that my great teammate and good friend, (former Mavs guard) Wesley Matthews, used to do the last couple of years,” Barea said. “He’s gone now (to the Milwaukee Bucks), so I took over and I think it’s great.

“It’s something simple, but I think it’s important. You need some coats for the weather. It gets cold, so helping people out with that is good, and Raising Cane’s is helping, too, and so are the Mavericks. So, it’s all a combination of people, so we’re doing a good job.”

Barea visited two Raising Cane’s restaurants in North Dallas on Tuesday, talking to customers and Mavs fans about food, and making them aware of the dire need to donate some winter items for the less fortunate.

“It’s so awesome for him to be able to show his support with the coat drive, and our support,” said Crystal Cloyd, the marketing leader for Raising Cane’s. “We’ve been fans of the Mavs and supporters of the Mavs.

“This is our fourth year doing the coat drive. It’s just fun for the community, for the crew, and it really highlights what we’re trying to do for the shelters here in Dallas that we have.”

The Winter Warmup campaign lasts until Dec. 30, and folks are encourage to stop by any area Raising Cane’s to drop an item into one of the bins that are located in the restaurants. Customers are awarded a free soda for their donation.

“I think a lot of people need (coats), and a lot of people are going to use them,” Barea said. “So, it’s always good to help that way.”

And that help goes a long way toward putting a smile on the face of those in need.

Asked what it means to the recipients of the coats, Cloyd said: “I think it’s a huge deal. They get to see that someone cares, and J. J.’s a pretty big name and the Mavs are having an awesome season this year.

“So, for him to take time out of his busy schedule and show his support for the community, and us being able to help be a part of that, it’s a really good deal.”

As Barea casually walked through the doors of the second Raising Cane’s that he visited on Tuesday, Vihemy Brito was busy having dinner with her husband. At first, Brito thought her eyes were playing tricks on her.

“The first time, I didn’t even recognize (Barea),” Brito said. “I thought, ‘He looks familiar. That looks like J. J.’

“And I told my husband, ‘Is that J. J.?’ He said, ‘Yes’. I said, ‘Oh my God. What’s happening?’ “

As fate would have it, Brito and Barea have a lot in common. Brito hails from Puerto Rico and moved to Dallas 11 years ago. And Barea also is from Puerto Rico and moved to Dallas 13 years ago when the Mavs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Northeastern University.

“This is great because we came from the same country,” Brito said. “And it’s amazing what he’s doing for the community.”

While basketball is his forte, Barea was able to hone his skills working the drive-through windows at the Raising Cane’s restaurants. It’s safe to say, everyone got their orders in a respectable amount of time.

“It’s not that easy,” Barea said, referring to his work at the drive-through windows. “It’s my first time doing it. You’ve got a lot going on.

“You’ve got the order, you’ve got the refreshments, you’ve got the chicken fingers. It’s like basketball. As long as you get rhythm, you’re good.”

That “rhythm” was certainly on full display last year during the Winter Warmup campaign.

“It was over 300 coats and items that (were donated last year),” Cloyd said. “And when we delivered them it was so awesome to be able to help fit the guys and make sure that they had all of the supplies that they needed.”

The second Raising Cane’s Barea visited on Tuesday was right up the street from where one of the tornadoes landed on Oct. 20 and caused over $2 billion in damages. Cloyd acknowledged that since folks in that area of North Dallas are still trying to recover from the tornadoes, campaigns like the Winter Warmup are just what the doctor ordered.

And for Barea to be a part of it makes it even more special.

“I think every NBA player should help out the community, and help out where they’re from,” Barea said. “I’m from Puerto Rico, so I help out (in Puerto Rico).

“My foundation is basically more in Puerto Rico, and over here in Dallas I just go with what the Mavericks are doing. And the Mavericks Foundation does a great job, so I just blend in with them.”

That’s why Barea didn’t mind lending his name, time and money to this year’s Winter Warmup campaign.

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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