Although the temperature reached 70 degrees on the October afternoon when they received free winter coats, the students didn't remove them for the rest of the school day. Twenty children from Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners in Lorain, Ohio, proudly sported the outerwear in sparkly pinks, camouflage and Angry Bird prints sent by Beverly Robinson and Coats 4 Children of Powell.
Although the temperature reached 70 degrees on the October afternoon when they received free winter coats, the students didn’t remove them for the rest of the school day.
Twenty children from Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners in Lorain, Ohio, proudly sported the outerwear in sparkly pinks, camouflage and Angry Bird prints sent by Beverly Robinson and Coats 4 Children of Powell.
For the second year in a row, one of Summit Academy’s 26 Ohio charter schools received two boxes of winter coats for low-income students, said Nancy Peacock, director of publications and media for the Akron-based school system. (Last year, the coats went to Summit Academy Community School in Columbus.)
“Just think: When you see the first snowflake, those kids will be warm,” she said. “A coat is such a part of your identity as a kid. You can’t fix the world, but, sure, you can send kids to school warm.”
Robinson is trying to change the world one new-with-tags coat at a time.
During the past three years, the nonprofit organization that Robinson founded in 2006 has given out more than 1,800 coats to needy children.
This year, she and her team of 16 volunteers expect another record season and plan to donate more than 1,100 coats.
Robinson chose to focus on outerwear because a coat can be the most expensive item in a child’s wardrobe.
“It may be a grandparent raising grandchildren or a parent goes to work and finds out his position has been eliminated,” Robinson said. “We step in for the children and say, ‘Hey, here’s a coat.’”
She was inspired to start Coats 4 Children after she and her husband, Kevin, returned from a mission trip to Puebla, Mexico, seven years ago with a renewed sense of how families struggle.
She began to look for ways to help here.
Having retired from her job in property management, she focuses on the nonprofit full time; she doesn’t accept a salary.
Robinson spends weekends at festivals and expositions, where she networks with businesses to find sponsors. She hosts bake sales and fashion shows in the Columbus area to raise money. And she scours department stores for the best deals on brand-name coats.
“New says you’re worth it,” Robinson said. “If children feel good about themselves, they do better in school.”
To find families in need, she calls churches, schools and agencies that work with children.
A month ago, Denyse Woods — principal at the Ohio School for the Deaf on Morse Road — received a phone call “out of the blue” from Robinson asking whether any students might benefit from the coat program.
A few days later, two boxes of coats in various sizes and styles arrived at the school.
“Parents were beside themselves,” Woods said. “One parent was in my office crying.”
Last week, the school received 20 more coats, each with a Coats 4 Children business card attached.
During 2012, Coats 4 Children donated clothing to 15 Ohio schools as well as domestic-violence shelters, after-school programs and churches, Robinson said.
There are no income qualifications for recipients.
Peacock called the idea simple yet elegant.
“The average kid takes for granted having a coat that’s clean, that doesn’t have any holes in it, that fits,” Peacock said. “Once that coat is on, the ownership is all over their faces.”
To donate coats, receive coats or host a coat drive, visit www.coats4children.org.