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Coats for Kids accepting donations at Washington County locations

MARIETTA — Hundreds of children walking around Washington County this winter, as in years past, will be shielded from the cold by the generosity of strangers.

Over the next few days, barrels decorated with frills and colored paper will appear in more than a dozen places around town to mark the start of collections for Coats for Kids.

The annual program, a project of RSVP of Washington County, collects donations of winter gear and then hands out the coats, gloves, hats and scarves to children — and sometimes adults — in need of protection from the weather.

Lisa Valentine, director of RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program), said the program goes back at least 15 years. Each year it receives 500 or more donated coats — Valentine said 2012 was its peak year, when the program received 726 coats — along with numbers of hats, scarves and gloves. People with used coats in good condition drop them into the barrels of participating businesses and agencies, the donations are periodically collected, and starting Dec. 3 the Coats for Kids store on the ground level of the Dime Bank Building opens, operating from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 19. Coats can be donated through Dec. 16.

“Starting Dec. 3, volunteers will put out the coats,” Valentine said. “Promanco (the real estate firm that owns the Dime Bank Building) lets us use that space every year. They’ve been a real champion.”

Extra features this year include a donation from the Belpre Church of Christ Junior Worship Class, which bought matching sets of hats and gloves, bagged them and delivered the contribution to RSVP, about 60 bags altogether, Valentine said.

MJ Williams of the Belpre church said the junior worship class is a group of about 25 children ages preschool to sixth grade who meet during the adult sermon. They take up their own collection, she said, and this year decided to donate it to a good cause.

“They decided doing a service project was a great way to spend the collection money,” she said. “We bought hats and gloves and gave them to Coats for Kids. What better cause than keeping people warm, to experience the joy of giving, and what better way to follow the example of Jesus?”

A big donation of yarn to the O’Neill Center gave a group of knitters an idea, and the result was dozens of hand-knit hats.

“There must be 60 or 70 of them,” Valentine said.

Donation barrels are set out at five People Bank branches — the main branch at Putnam and Second streets, the one at Second and Scammel streets, the Frontier Shopping Center, the Belpre branch at 1902 Washington Blvd., and the Reno branch on Ohio 7. Others are at Kroger, Mancan, Planet Fitness, Washington State Community College, the O’Neill Center, Washington Electric Co-op on Highland Ridge Road, Joe Momma’s Kitchen in the Frontier Shopping Center, Warren’s IGA and The Marietta Times office at 700 Channel Lane.

Valentine said coats for really young children and for adolescents are in high demand.

“We’re always low on coats for the tiny little ones and for middle school kids, size 10-12,” she said. “One year we got a whole bunch of hooded sweatshirts, and the older kids really liked those.”

She said the program also accepts winter boots.

The program isn’t exclusively for children, she said.

“We always have coats for older people, for adults,” she said. “If you’re cold, please come by and see us.”

Sandy Bach has volunteered for 10 years in the program. She said Friday that it’s been a rewarding experience.

The Coats for Kids shop sometimes runs out of particular sizes, she said, especially for toddlers and teens.

“If we don’t have the right size for someone, we’ll take down their number and phone them if something comes in. Last year, I phoned one lady who had come in, and when she picked up the coats, she cried. That just makes you want to get more coats, help more people,” she said.

Bach said she’s begun an informal outreach to outlying communities where people in need might have difficulty getting into Marietta.

“We’ve got one lady who’s going to stay in touch with New Matamoras, and another for Lower Salem, letting people know, at the food pantries for example, that if they know people who don’t have the winter clothes they need, we’ll set them aside and somebody can come and pick them up,” she said.

“There really is a need,” she said. “For folks who are doing Black Friday shopping this year, if you see economically priced coats or hoodies, think about us and pick something up to donate.”

Michael Kelly can be contacted at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.

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Coats for Kids, Donation Locations

* Peoples Bank, 138 Putnam St.; Second and Scammel streets; Frontier Shopping Center; 1902 Washington Blvd., Belpre; Ohio 7, Reno

* Kroger, 40 Acme St.

* Mancan, 112 Putnam St.

* Planet Fitness, 450 Pike St.

* Washington State Community College

* The Marietta Times, 700 Channel Lane

* O’Neill Center, 333 Fourth St.

* Washington Electric Cooperative, 440 Highland Ridge Road

* Joe Momma’s Kitchen, Frontier Shopping Center

* Warren’s IGA, 402 Muskingum Drive

* Drop-off dates: Nov. 5 through Dec. 16

Distribution Dates

* Dec. 3, Dec. 5, Dec. 10, Dec 12, Dec. 17, Dec. 18, Dec. 19.

* Times: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

* Location: Dime Bank Building, Second Street entrance

Source: RSVP of Washington County

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