Salvation Army group distributes coats

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Shelly Birkelo
Saturday, October 26, 2013

JANESVILLE—Vehicles were parked for several blocks on side streets near the Salvation Army's Janesville location Saturday monring, as families formed a long line into the church and social services agency.

Hundreds of families wanted to be sure they could have their pick of warm weather clothing being distributed by the Women's Auxiliary during its annual Coats for Kids giveaway.

“The line formed at 6 a.m. Distribution started at 9 a.m.,” said Lindi Paull, project co-chairwoman with Gretchen Hunsader.

The number of those coming for the giveaway had not slowed by lunchtime as it typically does, she said.

“It's been steady with lots of big families including six to 10 people,” Paull said.

Each family was assigned their own personal shopper, made up of nearly 70 auxiliary volunteers.

As of 11 a.m., 150 adults and 215 children had been served, said Irene Demrow, auxiliary member.

Thirty minutes later, another 100 people had been served, she said.

“There have been three generations of families—the mom, dad, grandma, plus five to 9 kids—coming through,” Demrow said.

“I think the need is greater this year than last year,” she said.

Demrow was right.

According to Paull 840 coats were given away this year. That compares to 693 coats distributed in 2012, which was 73 more coats than given away in 2011, Paull said.

The Hernandez family, including father Azael and mom Juana plus their four children ranging from 19 months to 8 years old waited 90 minutes to get two big plastic bags full of items.

“Everybody got a coat, mittens, scarves and hats; the two little ones snow pants and dad found a vest and snow bibs, but the boys didn't find boots,” said volunteer Sue Schroeder.

Azael said the giveaway was really important for his family, which has another baby on the way.

“I've been unemployed for one year now,” he said.

“I try to buy them what I can,” Azael said, but money coming in needs to be used to fix the furnace and pay the utilities bill.

Azael's 8-year-old daughter Zuri was all smiles after picking out a coat in her favorite colors of purple and blue to replace the heavy sweatshirt she was wearing.

“I'm going to wear it to school on Monday,” Zuri said.

And 6-year-old Adaia found a pair of boots.

“As long as they're happy, I'm happy,” Azael said.

Anyone needing a coat and warm winter wear was welcome, Paull said.

The auxiliary, which has been conducting the giveaway for more than 20 years, expected an increase but saw the most people ever come to the effort.

The number of people in need of warm weather gear mirrors the increased need for Salvation Army services, she said.

Yet the auxiliary didn't have to turn anyone in need away thanks to the support of the community.

Over $2,000 in donations and more than 2,300 new and gently used coats, mittens, hats, scarves, snow pants and other warm weather wear were donated to the giveaway, Paull said.

The program has distributed more than 19,983 coats and winter-wear items to more than 4,302 needy children and adults in North Rock County in six years.

All items were free, clean and available to all ages, Paull said.

 “Coats for Kids has really become coats for everyone.”

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