Kids First coat drive falls short

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Rebecca Mueller/Winonan

As November begins and the cold weather settles in, people are starting to bring their coats out of storage.

That is why the Winona State University Health Organization for Promotion and Education (HOPE) club hosted a coat drive for the Kids First after school program to help area children stay warm.

The coat drive began on Oct. 30 and ended Nov. 1, running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. Club members were stationed at a table in the Lower Hyphen in Kryzsko Commons.

Jason Mode, the conference coordinator for the HOPE club, said, “We’re just getting our feet wet with it this year.”

This was the organization’s first year holding a coat drive.

Club members running the coat drive found that they did not collect as many coats as they thought they would.

“We think the problem with participation is probably due to students not having their winter attire here from home,” Mode said.

The HOPE club originally chose to hold their coat drive at the end of October in an effort to collect coats before the weather got too cold.

The organization’s goal was to gather coats that can fit anyone between elementary school and high school age. They considered coats to include light jackets, heavy winter coats and anything in between. They also collected winter gear of all types.

HOPE club members contributed their own gently used coats.

Mode explained that he had moved recently and had already sorted his belongings into things he could keep or donate. His donation pile included a box of coats to donate.

Carol Marchant, coordinator of Kids First, told HOPE club president Francis Julison the organization was in need of basic winter needs such as gloves and sweatshirts.

Kids First is an after-school program located at the Maplewood Townhomes Housing Authority. The program is a collaboration between Winona State and the Winona Housing and Redevelopment Authority and is run by Winona State’s special education department.

Volunteers have the opportunity to work in a community made up of many different ethnic groups, which exposes them to diversity. Education students often volunteer there as a requirement for Special Education 300 and similar courses, but anyone can volunteer.

“You can tell that the kids really appreciate you being there,” Mode said about his experiences volunteering at Kids First.

The program offers homework help, a kitchen for cooking, games and activities for indoors and equipment, and a playground for outdoor activities. Around 65 children and teenagers participate in the program’s activities each night.

Any extra coats from the coat drive that Kids First does not need will be passed on to the Salvation Army.

With the coat drive now over, the HOPE club will meet to discuss its next steps.

“Most likely we will have another coat drive after Thanksgiving break with hopes that students will be able to bring things back from home,” Mode said.


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