By Paula Harrity, coordinator of volunteers, Worcester Public Schools
Every day school is in session, more than 23,000 students converge on the Worcester Public Schools. More than two thirds of these children are poor, many do not speak English as a first language in their home, and increasingly, the Worcester Public Schools welcomes refugees who have come here from war torn nations, and they have witnessed first-hand the horrors of mass destruction and hunger.
The Coats for Kids program provides new winter outerwear to needy children who attend the Worcester Public Schools, Worcester Head Start, Community Partnerships and for Children, and several area homeless shelters. This service began 25 year ago and serviced 400 children. Last year (2010-2011) 2,200+ children were given new winter jackets, hats & mittens. This past year the program was expanded to secondary students. In addition, a quantity of winter jackets, hats & mittens were provided to the Parent Information Center to have on hand for needy families arriving from other countries.
Students who receive this service are referred by the building principal or program directors. All of these children are at or below the poverty level and qualify for free or reduced school lunches. The program takes place from mid October to mid January. Families are very thankful for this assistance for this service during these very difficult economic times.
This past year the program expanded to include secondary schools, the SAMS program, ACT program (all sites), Adult Education and Alternative Education programs.
Individuals who donate to this program range from individual community members; to church, work and family groups. Individuals or groups can get the information and do the shopping themselves or send in a donation and the Worcester Educational Development Foundation, Inc and Junior League of Worcester assists with the shopping. We also have a group of shoppers from RSVP-Worcester Area Volunteers who assist with shopping.
We are also very fortunate to have so many corporate/business partners for this project. They donate funding, serve as drop off sites and get employees involved in the program and serve on the advisory board.
This program is administered through the Worcester Public Schools Volunteer Office.