Coats for Kids continues helping students in need

Former Frankfort Mayor Bill May is gearing up for Coats for Kids, a project aiming to surround children with warm jackets in 2021. (State Journal file photo)

It’s that time of year again.

Coats for Kids, started by former Frankfort Mayor Bill May and his wife, Jenny, are asking for the community’s help in gathering and donating winter coats for children in need. 

The community project that began 35 years ago is something May said is an important part of the season. 

“Everybody who participates is an important part of making this work,” he said. 

Only brand new winter coats are given to children because, other than providing warmth, the Mays feel it is important to provide something new the children can feel good about. 

Working through local schools, May said school and family resource center personnel discretely watch for children going without warm coats, compiling a list of those in need. 

“Most coats are purchased directly from the manufacturers at huge discounts. The rest are purchased locally. Local stores give discounts to help, which is deeply appreciated,” May said. 

Coats are ordered around March of each year and received in early fall.

“The money we are raising now, is to be used to pay for the coats for next year. We must raise money in advance in order to be able to buy from the manufacturers at the discounted prices," he said.

“It warms our hearts to receive thank-you notes made by the children who receive coats. For many of them, this is the first new garment they’ve ever had, their others have been hand-me-downs or from second-hand stores." 

One of the most memorable thank-you notes May said he received came from a parent who said she did not know how she was going to be able to buy her children coats. 

When her children came home with brand new warm coats, she said she started to cry and was so overcome with joy and thankfulness. 

“We have had teachers tell us how some of their students have received one of the coats and just could not stop beaming with joy. There have been some children who have not wanted to take their coats off when they come to class. A couple have even folded their new coat into a pillow and laid their heads on it during nap time. Those stories are what keep us doing this year after year,” May said. 

On one specific occasion, May recalled a Christmas miracle at Bald Knob School, where the school’s secretary left a message on his answering machine about needing three more coats they had accidentally left off the list. 

May said it was at the end of the Coats for Kids project and the last day of school before Christmas break, but he decided to check and see what was left in their stock. 

“When I checked to see what we had left, I found one boy’s size 8 which had been returned from another school in exchange for a larger size, one girl’s size 5/6, and one girl’s size 7/8,” he said. 

The school was set to dismiss at 2:30 p.m., but May, living a ways from the school, decided to make the drive to deliver the coats before the children went home for Christmas break. 

“When I got home, there was a message from the school secretary asking how I knew to bring a blue coat for the boy, a pink girl’s 5/6, and a purple girl’s 7/8. She said that the older sister had written a letter to Santa asking that he bring a pink coat for her little sister, and a blue coat for her brother, and she would like a purple one. I called the school secretary and told her those were the only coats that were left. When we think of that story, it always reminds us that there really are Christmas miracles, especially, when you believe,” May said. 

May said the Frankfort Plant Board has been a key partner with the project by running public announcements on Cable 10. He added it has helped raise funds each year and he is “very grateful for their partnership in this.”

Longtime partner, C. Michael Davenport's family, was also noted as graciously providing space for the Mays to run the program out of many years ago.

“For the past few years, The Point Community Church, formerly known as Thornhill Baptist Church has provided space for us to sort and bag the coats and additional storage space,” he said. 

The Fraternal Order of Firefighters has assisted with the unboxing, sorting and delivery to the schools for each of the last five years.

“Without the partnership with The State Journal, we simply would not be able to be successful in raising funds to keep the program going,” May said. “We have many long-time contributors that always tell us they wait for the article to run in The State Journal as a reminder to send their contributions to Coats for Kids. We deeply appreciate the partnership with The State Journal we have had over the years.”

Donations may be mailed to Coats for Kids, 1121 Collins Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601-4307. Checks should be made payable to “Coats for Kids.”

“Every penny of each donation is used toward the purchase of a brand new winter coat,” May said.

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