Nancy Sloane Coates, 94, of Haverford, whose Community Clothes Charity raised millions of dollars for Philadelphia-area causes, died Thursday, March 12, of congestive heart failure at home.

Mrs. Coates was born in New York City in 1920 to the family that founded W. & J. Sloane, an interior decorator and furnishings business. The chain's flagship was at 19th Street and Broadway; its designers decorated the White House and the Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., during the 1890s.

As a young woman, Mrs. Coates was inspired by Florence Nightingale. She graduated from the Columbia School of Nursing in 1944 and worked for a while as a registered nurse. That same year, she married Benjamin Coates, an aspiring lawyer who became an oil and real estate magnate, racehorse owner, and philanthropist.

Throughout her long life, Mrs. Coates volunteered with charities that helped wounded war veterans and the mentally ill. She so admired the work being done at the Musicians Emergency Fund in New York that in 1957 she founded a similar effort in Philadelphia.

The group sponsored concerts and music therapy for hospitalized soldiers. To fund the work, it held parties and an annual one-day sale of donated, lightly worn designer clothing.

When the federal government assumed funding of the veterans program in 1977, Mrs. Coates and fellow volunteers decided to expand the sale to three days and funnel the proceeds to other deserving causes.

From 1957 through last year, her nonprofit Community Clothes Charity raised $3.7 million for myriad charities. The beneficiaries changed each year, according to the group's website.

Mrs. Coates' favorite recipient was Puppies Behind Bars, a program that trains prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans. Some of the dogs become bomb-sniffing K-9s for police.

Mrs. Coates also served on the women's committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for 58 years. She enjoyed spending time at the family's sprawling Rancho Guejito, which dates back to the days of Old California.

She was much loved by many in the volunteer community of Philadelphia, her family said in a statement.

Her husband died in 2004. Mrs. Coates is survived by a daughter, Theodate; son Benjamin Jr.; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be at noon Friday, March 20, at the Church of the Redeemer, 230 Pennswood Rd., Bryn Mawr. Friends may call at the church from 11 to 11:50 a.m. Burial will be in the churchyard.

Donations may be made to the Building Fund, Columbia University School of Nursing, 630 W. 168th St., Mailbox 6, New York, N.Y. 10032.

bcook@phillynews.com

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