Area Coats for Kids campaign to begin

MARIETTA – From Mary Emge’s perspective, providing coats to children who might not otherwise have them this winter is just another form of recycling.

Emge said children grow so quickly they often can’t fit into clothing that’s still in good shape. Through Dec. 17, area residents can take gently used children’s coats, along with hats and gloves, to any of 16 locations in Marietta, Reno and Belpre to be distributed in December to folks who need them.

“Recycle, it’s what it’s all about, and not be such a throw-away society,” said Emge, co-captain of the annual Coats for Kids campaign for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

Of course, that’s not the only reason she and other volunteers work to organize and distribute the items each year.

“It’s just a good thing to do for the community,” Emge said. “You hate to see little kids going to school without coats.”

And while the focus is on gently used items, in sizes ranging from infant to 18, the volunteers have no qualms about accepting new items.

“We do have a lot of people who donate new coats, brand-new coats, and they do go quickly,” said Lisa Valentine, director of RSVP.

Coats are collected in barrels placed at local business sponsor locations, including The Marietta Times, Washington Electric Cooperative, Mancan and Peoples Bank sites, as well as Marietta Middle School and the district’s elementary schools. The coats are delivered to volunteers who check to make sure they’re in good shape, then clean and sort them for distribution from the first floor of the Dime Bank Building on Second Street in Marietta, the space provided each year by Promanco.

Emge said the volunteers look for significant tears, zippers not working and other problems which would result in garments being taken out before distribution.

“We check the pockets and make sure there’s no food or hankies or anything like that in them,” she said.

Distribution takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays starting Dec. 3. There are no prerequisites or qualifications to receive a coat.

“You just come during the distribution and pick the coats up,” Valentine said. “We have people who will come and pick up coats for their kids, and then they were the wrong size, so they bring them back the next day.”

Emge said the people who get the coats are usually quite thankful. At times, she encounters some for whom accepting such a gift is an effort in and of itself since they haven’t been in that position before.

“It’s really hard for people to do that because they’ve always had work, had money, and they didn’t need to reach out and do that,” she said.

The program distributes around 500 coats each year. Many of the leftovers are taken to the Good Samaritan House in Caldwell, but Valentine said a few are kept around just in case.

“We also have people that trickle through our office – ‘I missed the distribution, but I need a coat,'” she said.