The Salvation Army in Northeastern Pennsylvania Gives the Gift of Warmth to Children
When Barbara was nine years old, she and her sister lost all of their clothes in a house fire. It was not long before The Salvation Army delivered warm coats to Barbara and her sister.
“It was really special,” said Barbara, who did not provide her last name, now a resident of East Stroudsburg. “I’ve remembered that since then. And it was one of the nicest coats I ever had in my life.”
Barbara finally had the opportunity to return the favor when she stopped by WBRE-TV/WYOU-TV and Eyewitness News’ Coats For Kids drive to donate a coat to The Salvation Army’s Northeastern Pennsylvania Corps to distribute to those in need throughout the region.
In November, children’s coats of all sizes were donated by hundreds of community members at the three drop-off locations outside the TV station’s studios in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, and Stroudsburg.
The Salvation Army and Eyewitness News effort collected more than 1,000 coats. Throughout December, hundreds of children received the coats at Salvation Army distributions in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, and Stroudsburg.
The donations came at a critical time during the holiday season when The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division saw an increased community need outpacing support. The organization reported that its Red Kettle donations were down nearly 22% the week leading up to Christmas, while requests for assistance had surged more than 40% over last year.
“The economy has really hit people this year, and our money is being stretched,” said Major John Wheeler, Corps Officer of The Salvation Army East Stroudsburg Corps. “We used to have to buy coats to give to people. These donations are going to save us that money, so now we can use it to help people with their rent, utilities, and other things that they need.”
Through the Coats For Kids initiative, The Salvation Army aims to alleviate stress and bring joy back into the season for families and individuals struggling during the holiday season. Providing coats to families helps lessen the financial burden of buying a new coat every year for growing children. It also allows kids to attend school on colder days that they may otherwise skip without a warm jacket.
“We have a lot of families who are struggling with basic necessities,” said Steve Brown, Director of Corporate Engagement for The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division. “The fact that generous folks are coming in donating coats to families allows kids to have a winter holiday they deserve.”
The Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Citadel held its final distribution before Christmas, where struggling community members stopped by to pick up prebagged coats and browse display tables piled with coats. It was a touching day for many parents who stopped by for their kids, bringing some to tears of gratitude.
“Very helpful, especially when times are rough --especially with the prices of everything going up,” said Dasia Reveron, a single mother of three from Edwardsville who attended the distribution.
“I think that’s a wonderful thing to do for the kids. Kids need a lot of things. And (a coat) is one of the things they do need,” said Audrey Gowan, a mom from Wilkes-Barre who stopped by to pick up a coat for her daughter. “She’ll stay warm. She’ll look nice.”
The Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Citadel expressed it had never before received this much appreciation from a distribution.
“We have been receiving hugs and a lot of thank you’s,” said Lt. Irseris Ortiz, Corps Officer of The Salvation Army Wilkes-Barre Citadel. “The viewers, the partners, the news. It’s teamwork. It’s teamwork and when we are united for the community, everything is possible.”
Those who could not donate in person at the Coats For Kids drive but would like to support The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division are encouraged to donate online to help those in need stay warm year-round.