November 29, 2014
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Warm weather puts crimp into coat drives

Temperatures this fall have been unseasonably warm, and although the sunshine may be thought of as a positive thing, some agencies, like Westbay Community Action, think the temps are throwing a wrench in their charity drives.

Paul Salera, Director of Elder and Family Services at Westbay, said because it’s been so warm, no one has thought to donate essential winter items like coats, hats, mittens and scarves to charity. Once the winter chill hits, Salera worries that there won’t be enough warm clothing for those in need.

Already, Westbay has handed out about 100 coats.

“If they come in and say they need a warm coat for their child, we ask them what size. We don’t require anything [else],” he said.

After handing out nearly a hundred coats earlier this season, Westbay has completely depleted their supply.

The warm coats they gave to the community were donated to them by the Kent County Moms Group. In partnership with One Warm Coat, a national organization based in California, the Kent County Moms Group collected 82 coats over the course of several weeks. Their drive began at the end of October and will run until Dec. 3.

Gina Coppolino, a member of the group, spearheaded this year’s drive. Last year, she organized a similar drive and two years ago helped run a food drive.

“I want my [children] to grow up knowing that everyone doesn’t have what they need,” she said.

She also wanted to help give back to the community.

“I wanted to make sure everyone had something warm to wear.”

Coppolino said the food drive two years ago didn’t go so well because people donated old, dusty food. She thought coats and winter clothes would be better because they could be washed.

This year she’s seeking donations of clean and lightly used coats and jackets, boots, gloves, hats and snowsuits of all sizes (adults and children).

Local schools, like Gorton Junior High, are jumping on the bandwagon, too. Gorton plans to hold a drive this winter for children’s coats, and those wishing to donate can drop off coats girls’ sizes small to large and boys’ sizes small to extra large at the school.

Gorton’s social worker, Alison Walsh, said the idea for the drive came when the school noticed a need for winter gear among the students.

Though Marie Cote, interim principal at Pilgrim High School, said it’s too early to see if there’s a need for winter coats among her students, she always keeps an eye out.

“If we see a need…we’ll magically have a coat appear,” she said.

Cote said there aren’t plans for a coat drive yet, but that doesn’t mean the school won’t be charitable. She said each year the school donates bundles of clothes to the needy, either through donations or from unclaimed “lost and found” items. Last year, Cote and her sister took unclaimed clothes to a laundromat and then dispersed them at local churches. Cote said students are also encouraged to bring donations of canned goods and similar items to school functions.

“If they can afford admission, they can bring a little something extra, too,” she said. “A lot goes on in this building.”

Kate Gorbitz, the social worker at Winman Junior High School, said the unseasonable weather has made it difficult to tell if there is a true need for coats among the students. She said she’s seen students not wearing coats on chilly days, but they tell her they chose not to wear a coat.

“A lot of kids don’t like to wear coats,” she said. “But it’s tricky. Do they really not want to wear coats, or are they just saying that as an excuse?”

Odyssey Hospice of Rhode Island is continuing their annual winter coat drive for the third year this season. Samantha Koehler, manager of volunteer services at Odyssey, is heading up the drive.

“It’s something we wanted to do,” said Koehler, who said they’ve received about 30 coats so far. They’ll be accepting donations at their Post Road location through Dec. 2. “We don’t have a goal; we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Koehler said depending on how many donations they receive, the clothes will go to Crossroads of Rhode Island, Amos House and House of Hope.

Like Coppolino, Odyssey is also accepting miscellaneous pieces of winter apparel.

Coppolino said those looking to donate to the Kent County Moms’ drive can bring the items to bins set up at Kite Tails Play Center in North Kingstown or Learn All About It Toys and Extravaganza Kids in Warwick. They can also call Coppolino at 569-3595 to arrange for a home pickup.

Coats and winter clothes collected by the Kent County Moms will be dropped off at West Bay Community Action on Dec. 10. From there, they’ll be handed out to those in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, the intake program and the Westbay Marketplace.

Last year, Salera said West Bay served roughly 10,700 people through their various branches of service. Each year, they give out about a hundred coats and thousands of mittens and hats.

“It’s always difficult,” he said of collecting winter coats. But, he’s optimistic. “When the temperature drops we’ll get more donations.”


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