The 27th annual Coat Drive for Kids, created by Horsepasture District Board of Supervisors member Debra Buchanan, is accepting donations until Nov. 30. Donations can be brought to One Hour Martinizing on Rives Road or Hollywood Cinema.
The coat drive began in 1996 when Buchanan saw a need in the community.
“This is the 27th annual Coat Drive for Kids. When I got elected, I took office January of 1996, and I was in one of the schools and it was getting a little bit cold, chilly, and of course, some of the kids didn’t have coats on. I wasn’t sure if they needed them or not, but I felt that there was a need. So, I started” the drive in 1996, she said.
Buchanan said the drive started small, encompassing the Horsepasture District. Eventually she was able to expand it, to help provide coats to more and more children.
“As it grew, I was able to reach out to more schools outside of the Horsepasture District, and each year it grew more and more. Finally, I was able to reach out to all of Henry County,” she said.
The school division provides Buchanan with a list of needed sizes. The coats are collected and then cleaned for free by One Hour Martinizing. They are then delivered to the schools.
“I would take them to the different schools and drop them off,” Buchanan said.
However, she also said the coat drive is not just for Henry County schools. She also works with the Salvation Army, Social Services, and Martinsville City Public Schools to make sure that every child who needs a coat can receive one.
“Some people might think it’s only for Henry County, no. We have social services workers call us needing a coat or coats for some of their clients, and certainly it’s open to them,” Buchanan said. “Martinsville City, I’ve had Martinsville City (school) teachers call and ask about coats. We’re always willing to help wherever we can because children are children, and they cannot help their circumstances.”
Because a child attends a school in Martinsville does not mean they are not able to receive a coat.
“If there is a school that is outside of Henry County, which would be the City of Martinsville, if there are children that need a coat, they can certainly come by One Hour Martinizing and get coats,” Buchanan said. “There shouldn’t be any child in the Martinsville and Henry County area that goes without a coat now.”
Since it began, the coat drive has brought in thousands of donations, with hundreds collected each year.
“Since we’ve started, it’s been thousands and thousands of coats. There’s been years, with the downturn in the economy, we were always able to fill the needs in the Henry County School System,” she said. “Typically, we might get five or six hundred coats, or more at times. It just depends on the economy.
“If there were years that, for some reason, we didn’t have enough, I went out and bought enough to make sure that we were able to fill those needs,” Buchanan said. “Over the years, through the generosity of the people of our community, they have opened their hearts and opened their wallets to either buy coats or to donate coats that they no longer need.”
Buchanan also encourages donations of adult sized coats to help the students in middle and high schools.
“Once you get to middle school and high school, those children wear adult sized coats. So, when we call it Coat Drive for Kids, sure they’re still in school and they’re still children, but they’re wearing adult sized coats,” she said.
Any adult sized coats that are not distributed to youngsters, or coats not suitable for children, are donated to the Salvation Army.
Buchanan said that the drive is a group effort from people and organizations all over the community, and it would not be possible without all of the support.
“It’s only through the generosity of people in the churches, people at Carlisle School, banks that were willing to put out boxes, of course One Hour Martinizing, the Matthew Wade Foundation has been a big help,” she said. “And just individuals, caring individuals that are willing to help donate.”
Through the years, Buchanan has seen the impact the drive has had on the children of the community. She has heard from teachers who have seen children light up when they receive coats.
“Teachers have talked to me about children that come from a home that might not be able to afford a coat or a new coat, they have hand me downs and when they get a new coat. They’re just happy,” she said. “One teacher told me she was able to give a child a coat and the child just did not want to let go of it.”
But again, Buchanan said helping children in need would not be possible without community support.
“I just appreciate all the outpouring of support from so many generous people in our community to put a smile on a child’s face,” she said. “Putting a smile on a child’s face makes all the difference.”