Coats for Kids, a Knights of Columbus campaign, expands in Summit and Grand counties
Coats for Kids campaign
To donate to the Knights of Columbus’ Coats for Kids campaign, make checks payable to:
Knights of Columbus
Memo: Coats for Kids
P.O. Box 3673
Knights of Columbus is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so donations are tax-deductible.
On Thursday, for the third year in a row, Margie Wass will watch the preschoolers’ eyes light up as they receive their gifts. These aren’t toys from Santa — not yet — but coats, boots, scarves and other winter wear, courtesy of the Summit County council of the Knights of Columbus’ Coats for Kids campaign.
“It comes in, and it’s like Christmas for everybody,” said Wass, who is the director of Kremmling Preschool in Grand County. “They’re really happy.”
When the items arrive, Wass helps hand them out to the young students. Once the kids have made their choices, she writes their names inside their new clothing, a process that always delights them.
“They say, ‘I get to keep it?’ and I say, ‘Yes, it’s yours forever,’” she said.
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The Coats for Kids campaign, headed by Knights of Columbus member Mike Kramer, has changed somewhat since its inception. When it started three years ago, Kramer and the Knights set up racks of coats in churches in Breckenridge and Silverthorne. What Kramer noticed was that jackets for the smallest children ran out first.
Now, Kramer and his volunteers get orders from Summit County’s preschool teachers, and gather clothing based on how many of each size are needed, so that no one gets left out in the cold. The second year saw the addition of boots, hats, gloves and other winter wear, to the usual jackets.
This year, Kramer teamed up with Summit’s Head Start program, acquiring clothing items for about 40 more families.
In addition to Summit’s eight preschools, the Knights deliver coats to preschools and elementary schools in Grand County — Kremmling, Fraser and Granby.
Each year, Kramer stores boxes upon boxes of coats in a local Knights of Columbus member’s garage. Hudson Auto Source donates a truck, which Kramer and other volunteers use to deliver the boxes to each school. Last week they delivered to Summit schools. This Thursday they will drive up to Grand to hand out the rest.
The coats couldn’t come soon enough for the kids, said Kramer, who had to wait a bit longer than usual due to some shipping delays.
“My friend from Kremmling, Margie Wass, called me last week when it was staring to get cold and she said, ‘Mike, we have two children that don’t have anything to wear for the winter. When are you coming out?’” he said. “And I felt so bad, I said, ‘We’re coming out as soon as we can.’”
Winter clothing is essential for the kids, said Wass, who go outside at least once every day for recess.
“We’ve got snow on the playground from now until spring, and without having the warm winter wear they are miserable out there,” she said. Once the coats arrive, however, “everybody will be bundled up and happy.”
When families in the High Country are struggling to pay rent or pay for groceries, the added expense of jackets, hats, gloves and boots can weigh heavily, both Wass and Kramer pointed out.
“For many of our families, the winter coats and stuff is a huge expense for them, especially if they have more than one child, and with the winters up here so cold, it’s nice to have an organization that will donate new coats for the kids,” said Wass. “It just helps the parents free up dollars for groceries each week or rent or whatever; but the parents we’ve helped with this are very grateful for the service.”
Kramer said he and others understand what it’s like for people who find themselves in a tough situation financially.
“You deserve this, you’re a good person, here you go, respect it and take care of it — we go with that attitude,” said Kramer. “We don’t look for any thanks, we don’t want any thanks. It’s good.”
Each year, Kramer has watched the program grow. Through donations, the campaign spent $7,800 the first year, then $8,300 and this year’s total is $9,000.
“We’re getting some real good annual donations,” he said.
One of the big donors is Walmart, which has awarded the project a $1,000 grant each year. This year, the company donated around 330 clothing items, which Kramer estimated to be worth $6,000.
Assisting with the donations was Ismael Quijada, a Walmart department manager. Quijada has lived in Summit County for more than 13 years, and attended Dillon Valley Elementary School.
“It feels great, actually, (and) not just for the kids in my school,” he said of having a hand in helping out Summit County students. “Just that there are people out there willing to help the less fortunate, or at least the kids that need the help. So I feel proud of that.”
Kramer has also found many individuals willing to donate money to the cause. One reason he feels people are so willing to help, in addition to the fact that it’s a good cause, is that all of their money goes directly to the children. None of the donations are spent on administrative costs, or any other costs not related to clothing.
“When they write their check, they know exactly what is going to happen with that $500,” he said, giving an example. “They know they’re buying ‘x’ number of coats or they’re buying ‘x’ number of boots or hats and they know that; they’re assured of that and they feel good about it.”
LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR
Kramer is pleased with the growth of the program, and said he plans to expand again next year, if possible. He hopes “it’s here to stay, and it’s going to grow and get stronger and more efficient.”
Those who have seen the effect of the program firsthand, like Wass, echoed Kramer’s sentiment.
“We really appreciate Mike’s work with the Knights of Columbus, with Kremmling Preschool,” she said. “It just is another resource for our parents that are struggling.”
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