Warm the coatless (and your heart)

By Cameron Barnes
Reader Staff

Schweitzer saw its first snowfall last Thursday, and in light of the fast-approaching winter, it’s becoming tougher than ever to leave the house without your coat. Despite the unpredictable nature of Mother Nature, one thing that is predictable is a cold winter here in North Idaho.

Coats 4 Kids stands to make a difference during the chilly season. Initially formed by power-trio of KXLY, Tomlinson Group and Safeway, the program has since exploded with sponsors. For 30 years, Coats 4 Kids has paired over 341,000 coats to those in need.

Recently donated coats line the Coats 4 Kids display room at the Bonner Mall in Ponderay, which will be the location of the KXLY weather broadcast and distribution day on Oct. 26. Photo by Cameron Barnes.

Recently donated coats line the Coats 4 Kids display room at the Bonner Mall in Ponderay, which will be the location of the KXLY weather broadcast and distribution day on Oct. 26. Photo by Cameron Barnes.

Running through the month of October, the program currently has 35 donation bins in the Sandpoint area, as well as locations all over Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

The program works in two ways. First and foremost is the collection of gently used coats. Luckily in our area, additional items are also accepted including scarves, hats and mittens, which are then cleaned. Instead of the cleaning taking place at Aramark Cleaners in Spokane, Nu-Way cleaners will be generously cleaning the items for this county.

The second priority is the purchase of new jackets from monetary donations. This option is ideal for those who do not have coats to donate because when enough money is collected, bulk buying allows for significantly reduced costs.

Last year $750 was collected, and upon receiving it, KXLY added another $250 in order to facilitate a bulk deal of 80 coats with Walmart.

When it’s time for distribution, there are such a variety of colors and sizes that it’s certain those in need will find a coat that truly suits them.

“It’s very heartening to see a child pick out a coat and know that it fits,” said Sandpoint area coordinator Karen Battenschlag. “[I love seeing] a big smile on their face when they walk away. You can just see their eyes light up knowing that they can have it. It just warms your heart. It touches your heart.”

If you have a jacket that you think may not be what is considered “gently used,” remember that all coats deemed unfit for distribution are first evaluated for repair. If they still don’t work, they are recycled properly, so either way it’s a win.

The face of the Coats 4 Kids program is KXLY Chief Meteorologist Kris Crocker. Recently she was involved in creating the Coats 4 Kids bus, which has set a goal of filling the entire bus by the end of the drive.

Just as important are people like Battenschlag, who makes sure all 35 donation locations are in full swing. She estimates that roughly 200 coats have been collected so far.

“Bonner County’s got a big heart, and they usually come through,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that. I couldn’t think of a better place to live than where we live. It’s like being on vacation everyday.”

Now in her third year as county coordinator, she’s seen the number of coats donated grow from 800 the first year to 1,000 the second. Although this year has started off a bit slower than usual, Battenschlag is confident that our county can at least match last year’s figures.

During her first two years as coordinator, there was another coat drive in town that was headed up by the Bonner Mall and the Bonner County Daily Bee, which makes this year’s drive all the more special. The program’s many forces have combined and are now under the Coats 4 Kids umbrella together.

“You feel good that you were able to be a part of something bigger to help somebody,” Battenschlag said. “[It’s wonderful to] make that child’s face light up and know that they’re going to be warm when they’re going to school or they’re out on the playground. That’s priceless. Absolutely priceless.”

Plans are in the works for next year to reach out to the Priest River community, a project certainly in line with the Coats 4 Kids mission.

“The more people that we touch, the more coats we collect,” Battenschlag said.

The big event day in Sandpoint will be on Oct. 26, from 4-8 p.m. at the Bonner Mall. KXLY personalities will be doing live weather broadcasts during the event in order to spread the word, so it’s a great time to come down and either donate or pick out a coat.

As a bonus, anyone who brings a coat on event day will be eligible to win a pair of tickets to see the Seattle Seahawks battle the Philadelphia Eagles this upcoming Nov. 20 in Seattle.

So come on, Sandpoint. Clean out that jam-packed closet and rid yourself of some things you’ll never wear again! Even if you’re nostalgic, you know you’ll feel better that someone will be staying warm because of it.

For more information please follow KXLYcoats4kids on Facebook, or email [email protected]

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