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Columbus Residents Get "Coats for Kids" Assistance

St. Stephens Community House at 1500 East 17th Ave. in Columbus is in the middle of what it calls Coats for Kids. St. Stephens is giving away new and used winter clothing to those who need it. It expects about 1,000 people to come to the center before the program ends on Saturday.

In the gym at St. Stephens there are racks and tables filled with clothing that Rene Williams describes as new or gently used.

"We have coats of all sizes, we have snow suits, we have jackets, windbreakers, vests, gloves, socks," Williams says. "You name it, we have it out."

And they're free for the taking. Williams is St. Stephens's development director. She says the community organization primarily serves the Linden area, but anyone in need is welcome during the three-day event that started on Thursday.

"It's called Coats for Kids but we have a variety of sizes from newborn; very, very nice items for them to take," Williams says.

Williams says Swan Cleaners has been a big contributor to the event for 21 years. They accept clothing donations, then clean and make repairs before they deliver them to St. Stephens.

Retirees Bernice and Charlie Fitzhugh were looking through the racks on Friday. Mrs. Fitzhugh said she'd already found several nice jackets.

"On my fixed income I can't afford to buy anything anymore. So it's a big help," says Bernice Fitzhugh.

"Every little bit helps," Charlie Fitzhugh added.

While staying warm is important, Rene Williams says Coats for Kids has a greater mission, raising the self-esteem of underprivileged children.

"This is so very important because look at the weather. But it also maintains the dignity of the family because the children can't concentrate if they feel that what they're wearing is substandard, below the child that is next to them. So we want to make sure that they're in line, as much as possible with what the other kids are wearing," Williams says.

As families headed out the door, employees were rolling more coats, hats and gloves into the gymnasium.