Koats for Kids: Spirit of Giving.

Winnipeg Free Press, Tuesday December 14, 2010. Reproduced with permission.
By: Staff Writer. Photos: Phil Hossack

What they do:

Now in its 22nd year, United Way-led program Koats for Kids bundles kids up against the winter chill. “It’s not just coats,” says Eric Friesen, United Way’s director of engagement. “It’s mitts, toques, ski-pants… anything a kid needs to have in order to participate and be warm in the winter time.”

Ginny Sudlow of Koats for Kids.

Ginny Sudlow of Koats for Kids. Don't be fooled by the the program's name - mitts, toques, ski-pants and other warm-weather clothing are welcome, too.

Hopes for the holidays:

Outerwear’s the name of the game, but the real benefit goes way beyond warmth.

Last holiday season, Friesen recalls, the program learned of a young student who had suddenly started skipping class. Officials at the boy’s school worried… until they learned that he was staying home because it was too cold for him to wait for the bus.

After getting a new parka from Koats for Kids, the boy went on to earn a perfect attendance award the next semester.

“It’s something we take for granted,” Friesen says. “And when it’s missing, it’s not just being cold, it’s being left out of so many things.”

Getting all that outerwear to all Winnipeg’s kids in need is a mammoth task: Each year, the program receives about 10,000 orders for outerwear from schools and other organizations. Since 2008, volunteer hours have more than tripled, to 1,600 a year, as Koats for Kids has expanded into a bigger space at 3172 Portage Ave.

How to help:

Scour your closets for outerwear. This year, girls and boys’ coats sizes 4 through 10 are especially needed. Clothing can be dropped off at any Perths Drycleaners or Winnipeg fire station, or at AMJ Campbell Van Lines on Niakwa Road. Cash donations are also welcome and volunteers are needed through March to help sort donations. Call 586-KOAT for more information.

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