Elkhart non-profit collecting coats for children in need this winter

The cold and snow are here, but not every child has a suitable winter coat. A non-profit in Elkhart is trying to change that.

The United way of Elkhart County recently began a program to help provide warmth for youngsters this winter.

It's the second-annual coat drive, with a goal to collect and distribute up to 700 winter coats for students in need.

“What we are doing is filling a major gap that we have within Elkhart County,” said Ashley Bowen, Director of Development, “and we are giving coats to kiddos who really need them but don't have the resources.”

They need a good, warm coat for a number of reasons.

“Kids might be coming to school each day with a coat that no longer fits them or that has holes in it,” said Bowen. “We are giving the community a chance to be involved and bring their coats -- new and gently used -- so it can go to a kid that needs it.”

The United Way has put up a number of collection boxes at businesses and locations around the area, where new or gently used coats can be dropped off.

And those local businesses are lending a hand for this worthwhile program. The United Way is working with counselors and social workers at Elkhart and Goshen schools to help identify the students who are most in need.

Donna Gildea is a social worker for the Elkhart Academy. She's received coats for some of the students there.

“Oh definitely, it’s a need, you know, and especially for kids in the winter time,” said Gildea. “If they are outside or a walker, they do need to have something covering them from head to toe.”

“Coats are expensive, and it’s an extra need for families that they don't usually put into their yearly budgets,” said Bowen.

A group of inmates at the Elkhart County jail is also helping. They've knitted more than 1,000 hats.

by Ed Ernstes, WSBT 22 Reporter