As cold sets in, Coats for Kids in need of donations

Coldwell Banker Realty III realtors Patty Probasco (left) and Jeff Shaffer survey inventory in the Coats for Kids storage area, where they keep donated and purchased coats. (James Neal / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID — As cold weather sets in, the Coats for Kids program is in need of community donations to provide coats to area kids in need.

Justin Helterbrand, broker at Coldwell Banker Realty III, said the Coats for Kids program, an effort of the realtors’ office to provide new and gently used coats to area school kids, now is in its 14th year.

The program has been a longstanding way for realtors to give back to the community, Helterbrand said.

“The people who live here take care of us, and want to give back and help where it’s needed,” he said. “Our agents have really embraced giving back through this program. They give back through Toys for Tots and a lot of other programs, but Coats for Kids is one of their favorites.”

Normally, Coats for Kids doesn’t start handing out coats until several weeks from now. But, with temperatures dipping into the 30s on Friday, Helterbrand said demand has started early this year.

“We’ve had several calls already for coats in the last few days,” Helterbrand said Friday. “We usually don’t start until November, but with this cold weather, we decided to go ahead and get started early.”

Coats for Kids collects new and gently used kids’ coats at the realty office at 101 N. Van Buren, and then distributes the coats to kids in need through counselors at area schools.

Helterbrand said any area school district can contact the office to match kids in need with a winter coat.

To meet that demand, Helterbrand said his agency’s 23 agents recently bought a supply of 3T, 4T and 10-12 size coats, because there were none left on their storage racks. Last year, the realtors handed out more than 500 coats through area school counselors.

This year, Helterbrand said demand isn’t slowing down.

“The coats go so fast,” he said. “We had a call the other day from a counselor who came and picked up 17 coats. They go fast when there’s a cold snap like this.”

Helterbrand said counselors share harrowing stories of children who show up to school, having walked a mile or more in bitter temperatures, with no coat.

Jeff Shaffer, one of the realtors at Coldwell Banker, said those stories are why he helps with Coats for Kids.

“I think it’s such a needed program, because there are so many kids who show up to school on cold days without coats, and that’s just heartbreaking,” Shaffer said.

Susan Root, another of the agency’s realtors, said “It’s just rewarding to be able to help people and give back.”

“Since the beginning, this has really been embraced by the community,” Helterbrand said, “and we couldn’t do it without the community bringing in donations and coats — we just couldn’t do it.”

Helterbrand said anyone can bring new or gently used coats to the Coldwell Banker office at 101 N. Van Buren, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Gently used coats are cleaned through a partnership with C&C Dry Cleaning & Ironing.

Monetary donations also enable Coats for Kids to purchase specific sizes when they’re needed.

Monetary donations can be brought to the office, or made payable to Coats for Kids and mailed to Coldwell Banker Realty III, 101 N. Van Buren, Enid, OK 73703.

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