Youngsters advocate for donations to put every child in a coat this winterDec 01, 2023 09:48AM ● By Julie Slama
Local families sort coats that were donated for “Every Kid in a Coat” drive; the coats will be distributed to Jordan School District students. (Photo courtesy of Jason Watson)
About 1,000 kids may be warmer this holiday season, if some elementary kids have a say.
Five-year-old Ember and 6-year-old Lucas heard the story, “The Coat” by Séverine Vidal, and wanted to do the same thing — only they are teaming up with friends to give on a grander scale.
“It’s a story about a little girl who gave away the red coat she loved because there was a little girl who was cold and poor and didn’t have a coat,” Ember said. “It made her happy to give it away. She was being nice.”
Her big brother added: “We made boxes and glued them together so people can donate coats. I don’t want anyone to be cold.”
Coats and monetary donations are still needed for the youngsters and their friends to reach their goal. Coats can be donated through AAA Garage Door. The company’s drivers will pick up coats from donors who reach out by text at 801-792-6597. Drop-off donation sites are listed at the end of this article.
Monetary contributions made to the Every Kid in a Coat’s Go Fund Me page, https://www.gofundme.com/f/every-kid-in-a-coat-2023, and at the Venmo account @Nicole-Hofer-4 will go toward purchasing new children’s coats. More information is available at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1033927014067936.
Kat Naessens, Ember and Lucas’s mother, said donated coats can be new or gently used. Any hand-me-down coats are being washed and mended, if necessary, before being donated to a child.
The grass roots coat drive came about from the youngsters, their friends and their parents.
“I looked for books about kindness and checked it out from the (county) library,” Naessens said. “We always do things so our kids understand they have a lot of blessings in their lives. After reading the book, we decided a coat drive would be something simple for them to understand the act of kindness and giving and it would have a big impact on those who need coats.”
While her children attend Providence Hall, which is not a Jordan School District school, Naessens learned Jordan Education Foundation serves many of the schools in the area and has a way to distribute the coats to those who need them the most. When she asked how many coats were needed, she was told 1,000.
“To be honest, I thought we’d just do a coat drive in our community and turn everything over to someone who was doing a bigger fundraiser, but there wasn’t someone. That’s when we decided it would be us. It’s really shocking, actually, to learn how many kids are living in food scarcity, and obviously, if the families in food scarcity don’t have the spare cash for food, then they won’t have it for other things like winter coats,” she said.
Jordan Education Foundation Associate Director Anne Gould said that about 2,100 students in Jordan School District are considered homeless.
“There’s definitely a higher need than ever before,” she said.
Jordan Education Foundation regularly distributes donated food, hygiene and school supplies and some clothing to students who are identified as being in need by teachers, counselors, principals and other professionals in the school.
“Usually, we receive a donation from someone somewhere in the universe and it’s miraculous how then we get a phone call that someone needs that exact item. We have an amazing, generous community,” Gould said.
Approximately 40 percent of the District’s school children are refugees; a great many of them reside in the Herriman community. Beds and bedding supplies that have been donated are often given to those who have none, Gould said.
For Naessens and her children, this coat drive is being held in addition to their school’s food drive.
“I always grew up being aware of people with higher needs than ourselves and how we’d help other people,” she said. “I’m hoping my own kids see through their eyes that people aren’t as blessed as we are. We live in a very affluent part of the world.”
Naessens grew up in Nairobi, the capitol of Kenya.
“As you can imagine, there’s an incredible amount of poverty in Nairobi. My primary school was next to a shanty town. So, from a very young age, we knew that there were people living in poverty and everybody would be involved with helping. We’d visit orphanages or homes for disabled kids and do fundraisers for them. That culture is what I want to make sure my kids know. Living in wonderful Utah is a bit more insulated to that. There is need here, but you don’t see it in the same way.”
Through the coat drive, Naessens has seen people’s generosity.
“It’s inspiring to see when people give, and some people have donated massive donations. It’s lovely when people send that positive message; it’s seeing kindness in action, and spreading it,” she said. “AAA garage doors has given us a lot of help. They made and paid for our fliers, they’re picking up donations and they gave us a big donation because they feel strongly about kids and wanting to make sure that they’re well stocked and supplied.”
She’s also grateful for Mountain Ridge High School’s service club students who helped distribute fliers.
“It’s inspiring to see our community come together to help our kids,” she said.
Gould said that the family itself is an inspiration.
“Kat is one of the many examples of a caring community member who sees a need and wants to help out,” she said, adding that it’s great that children are involved in every step of the drive as well. “The Jordan Education Foundation is the receiving house for these donations. We work with the schools directly and with people who know the needs of the students so we can make sure that those items get out to those students who need them the most.” λ