Now in its 16th year, Stanwood Camano Food Bank has expanded its Warm Coats for Kids program that gives brand new coats and hats to children, thanks to the Stanwood Community and Senior Center, which lends more space, more volunteers and more hours for people to pick what fits.
The center has become a Warm Coats distribution point for people who can’t make it during the program’s hours at the Food Bank. The center even provides volunteers.
“They helped me sort the coats in the beginning; there were hundreds and hundreds of coats,” said Warm Coats for Kids Coordinator Dian Shortt.
Parents get coat vouchers through the Food Bank for their children and then go shopping for new coats in the racks at the Food Bank or senior center.
Since October, volunteers have given out 431 coats for children up to age 18 from the two locations. The program continues through March or when it warms up.
Shortt said if kids grow out of the coats before March, they can come in for a new one that fits.
Getting the coats to some kids who need them isn't always easy.
“It’s difficult to get the coats to the teens. One, they wouldn’t wear them; two, they wouldn’t want to look like everybody else and three, they wouldn’t want to be seen coming in to get a free coat,” Shortt said.
This year, the Warm Coats program has expanded to the schools by taking coats to the students. In this year’s pilot program, a student advocate has taken coats to school and has discreetly lets more than 100 high school and Port Susan Middle School students choose their coats. Organizers plan to expand the program to more schools next year.
The Food Bank buys the new coats with donated money. Part of Shortt’s job is to hunt for deals in area stores and online. For example, at Costco Big Box, she scored 54 coats, averaging $11.88 each.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Shortt said. “There’s nothing more fun than handing out coats to kids.”
Hats are given, as well, crafted by the Knotty Knitters on Tuesdays at the Community Resource Center of Stanwood Camano.
Shortt said that a woman who wants to remain anonymous heard about this effort and proceeded to knit all summer, occasionally dropping off boxes of finished hats. Volunteers opened the boxes in October and counted 271 hats.
The mystery woman is still knitting. When they were looking over three more boxes that recently arrived with probably 30-40 hats, another box appeared, Shortt said.
How to help
Warm Coats for Kids is not just for those served by the Food Bank. Other families who need coats can call the Food Bank to make arrangements.
People can donate new coats for kids or gently used coats for adults, and they can donate money online; specify “Warm Coats for Kids.”
Those in need and volunteers can call 360-629-2789. Volunteers can also sign up online at stanwoodcamanofoodbank.org.