BY KIM LUTTRELL
DANVILLE — Two area organizations are teaming up again this year to collect winter coats for area children.
“This was an idea put out last year by the state Elks organization for our local members to do something in the community,” said Don Luebbers, exalted ruler of Danville Elks Lodge 332. “So last year we contacted the local Salvation Army because we knew they had been conducting such a program in the area and offered our help.”
Sharon Sawka, director of social services for the Salvation Army, said her organization has been collecting winter coats for at least 17 years.
“We were thrilled with the Elks’ offer to help,” Sawka said. “They have the manpower that we really could use.”
According Luebbers, last year the Elks collected 307 winter coats.
“We were really proud of what we accomplished in our first year doing this,” he said.
Both Luebbers and Sawka said this year’s coat drive has started a little slowly.
“I am hoping that people didn’t empty all of the coats out of their closets last year,” Luebbers said.
Sawka, too, is concerned about the number of coats received so far this year.
“I really don’t know if it is because of the economy, that people just don’t have the coats to spare, or perhaps the weather has not been cold enough yet for people to realize that some children just don’t have a winter coat,” she said.
When the Elks members got involved last year, they wrapped several barrels in Christmas wrapping paper and set them out around the community. They are doing the same this year.
“We have placed barrels at several local churches, Schlarman Academy and several business locations,” Luebbers said. “The barrels are all labeled ‘Coats 4 Kids.’”
The group is collecting all sizes.
“We will accept coats for the smallest of children up to adult sizes,” Luebbers said. “We have some high school kids that need coats and they wear adult sizes.”
Last year, any coats that needed cleaning were cleaned by Millikin Cleaners.
“It was estimated that they provided about $600 in cleaning services for us last year,” Luebbers said.
This year, all three cleaning establishments in Danville have volunteered their services to clean any coats that need it. Once the coats are collected and cleaned, they are given to the Salvation Army for distribution.
“In the past, when families come in to sign up to receive one of our Christmas food baskets, we allow the families to pick out a coat for any children that do not have one,” Sawka said. “However, this year we just didn’t have much of a selection for them to choose from.”
Sawka said anyone wanting to donate a coat may also bring it to the Salvation Army or if they have questions about the program, to call her at 442-5911.
Danville Elks Lodge 332 has placed decorated barrels at various churches, schools and business locations in Danville to collect winter coats for area children. Coats will be distributed by the local Salvation Army. Contact Sharon Sawka at 442-5911 for more information.