Koats for Kids benefits children in need

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Matthew Berdiel, 7, left, smiles as Kara Deans helps him try on a new coat Saturday during the inaugural Koats for Kids coat distribution at the Farmers Market.


Staff Writer

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Children came to the Rocky Mount Farmers Market on Saturday in thin jackets or without a coat at all and left with warm coats, gloves and hats, prepared for any future snow day to come.

There were a steady stream of “customers” selecting coats at the first annual Koats for Kids event, sponsored by the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce and Battleboro-based Berry Global. Children of all ages, races, shapes and sizes tried on a wide array of warm coats of almost every color and design.

Lali Juarez, 9, selected a beige coat with a faux fur collar and cuffs, a beige cap and bright red mittens.

“I picked this coat because I liked the color,” Juarez said.

Juarez came to the Koats for Kids event with her mother, 4-year-old brother and 7-year-old sister. The family also selected three coats for their cousins as well.

Zion Collins, 11, chose her puffy coat because of the brightly-colored polka-dots. Her mother, April Person, said the Koats for Kids event was a big help to their family.

“Zion had a coat but she lost it at school,” Person said. “Her teacher let me know about the Koats for Kids event so we could get her another one.”

Ashley Mills, human resources manager for Berry Global (formerly Berry Plastics) said the event was a great success because of the support of community members and partners.

“All of these coats were either donated directly by people or businesses in the community or were purchased by money donated for this reason,” Mills said. “The people in this community have been very generous and we have had businesses help out by also providing snacks at the event, free advertising and transportation for all of the donated coats.”

This year’s coat drive brought in about 600 coats, which David Farris, president and CEO of the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce, said was amazing since the effort only began about Thanksgiving.

“We had been talking about doing this project next year, but we decided the day before Thanksgiving to go ahead and begin this year,” Farris said. “We have had amazing support from the community.”

Mills said the effort began because the Chamber of Commerce and Berry Global saw a real need in the community.

“We learned that there are kids at school that do not have warm coats,” Mills said. “We felt that this was a need that needed to be addressed.”

Mills said planning for next year’s Koats for Kids event is already in the works.

“People in the community can expect to hear in October that we are beginning collection efforts again,” Mills said. “This year, we hope to be able to distribute the coats early in December and we hope to be able to collect about 2,000 new or gently used coats for kids and adults for that event.”

Mills said there were coats left over after Saturday’s event. Anyone still in need of a coat should contact United Community Ministries where the remaining coats were donated.

“For every coat we distribute, there is a warmer child,” Mills said.