It is now in the coldest winter months. A young girl is waiting outside for the bus to school, and she has no coat. Her teeth are chattering, arms are crossed, head tucked down to keep the cold winds away from her face. She waits, shivering with nothing to keep her warm. Situations like this is what PATH works to prevent.
Non-profit organization, PATH (People Attempting To Help) started the Coats for Kids program. It has a goal to “supply coats for children in this community who have no other way of getting a good, heavy coat,” Becky Duncan, community outreached coordinator for PATH.
Coats are collected throughout Smith County in the month of October. They can be dropped off at the PATH building, any of the participating cleaners, or at the TJC Student Life office. The coats are cleaned for free and then distributed to children in need for the winter.
Duncan said, It’s a wonderful deal for everybody. Families that don’t need their coats any longer have a place to donate them where they know they will be used and not resold. The cleaners are doing a very helpful community service. And most important, the children of Smith County who need coats for the winter are getting their needs met.
New coats are accepted as well as monetary donations for new coats
“We purchase a lot of brand new coats that we give to children every year,” said Duncan.
Coat collection will begin Oct. 1 and last throughout the month. Participating cleaners include: Lucky’s Cleaners, VIP Cleaners, Hart’s Cleaners, Eagle Cleaners, Fite’s Dry Cleaners, Shannon’s Cleaners, Gentry Dry Cleaners, Dry Clean Super Center, and Regency Cleaners.
“Those are the places where people can drop off their heavy winter coats. I really want to stress winter coats not hoodies, sweatshirts, jackets, or windbreakers,” said Duncan. “If you brought your little brother with you, we wouldn’t want to give him a heavy coat and you a hoodie or jacket because what we want is for you to be warm in the winter.”
Stacey Gregory, owner of Regency cleaners is proud to be involved. “I am a huge advocate for volunteerism. This is just one area in which I can participate with work, getting our employees involved and knowing what they’re cleaning them for.”
The coats will be distributed 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 14 and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Discovery Science Place. The coats donated are given to children and teens from ages infant to 18 years old.
John Hays, chair of the Foreign Language Department, encourages his Intermediate Spanish students to participate in the Coats for Kids project. In some of the Spanish classes, it is a requirement.
“Spanish students from TJC come and help. Many of our clients that get coats are Spanish speaking. It would be impossible for me to communicate without them,” said Duncan.
Even with a limited vocabulary, they can still communicate. It gives the students a tremendous practice because kids can teach better than teachers, said Hays. The participating students get the opportunity to “expand [their] linguistic capabilities,” experience the “Latin society” and see different walks of life.
A volunteer training will be held the week prior at noon, Nov. 6, at Discovery Science place.
“I want the volunteers to have a rewarding experience just like I want the children who leave to be warm on the first cold, bitter day in December,” said Duncan.