Coats for Kids warm body; annual drive warms heart

By PHILIP CASE State Journal Columnist Published:

For those children who don't have warm coats, this fall has been a blessing. As we certainly know, it's been unseasonably mild - bordering on hot at times.

But the odds are stacked against that continuing until spring.

"It always seems that when we have a fall like this," said Bill May, the driving force behind the annual Coats for Kids drive, "we get kind of lulled into thinking winter's not coming. But we all know it is."

Each fall May, members of his family, and lots of folks from the community have worked together to provide new coats for children who otherwise might not be able to afford them. In the past few years, because of generous contributions and judicious buying, funds collected in the current year have gone to underwrite the program for the next.

"When we reached the point where we could do that," said May, "we were able to do a lot better with our buying of the coats. The people of this town are so generous and supportive to give us that kind of cushion."

May now purchases most of the coats through manufacturers in New York. Because his buyer knows what the program needs, Coats for Kids has been able to purchase top-quality coats at a fraction of the retail price.

"For years we had to run from this place to that getting a few coats here and a few there," said May. "That became very time-consuming and sometimes our funds were depleted. We had to beg our local retailers to cut their prices to the bone and then sometimes, in the midst of the drive, had to go back to the community for more money.

"This way works much better and it gives us the freedom to negotiate better prices."

Sometimes May has to "fill in" odd sizes at local stores, but for the most part the coats come directly from the manufacturer.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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