Coats for Kids
Hamilton County Kids Coats Prepares Families For Winter
Writer / Braden Ochs
Every year, hundreds of families from all over the Hamilton County area come and receive free coats to stay warm for the winter. Hamilton County Kids Coats is responsible for changing kids and their families’ lives and preparing them for the cold Indiana winters.
Kids Coats’ mission is to provide coats and winter clothes to families in the area by partnering with the local community in Hamilton County. Aside from giving away coats, Kids Coats connects these families to community resources, prayer opportunities and churches around the area.
“It’s sharing the warmth of Christ’s love,” says Stephanie Fairfield, president of the board of directors.
Hamilton County Kids Coats started in 2004 at the direction of three women from a local church called Carmel United Methodist Church (CUMC). They saw the need to collect and distribute coats for the children in Hamilton County. There were organizations similar for residents of Marion County, but Hamilton County residents did not have that opportunity. The ladies at CUMC wanted to change that and reach out to their own community. The first year it began, the event was sponsored and run by CUMC and the Good Samaritan Network.
A few years after the organization started, it grew to the point where hundreds of people would stand outside in the cold in November waiting to receive coats. They soon came up with several different host churches in each city for Hamilton County residents to pick up their coats every year.
In 2018, Kids Coats gave out more than 3,000 new and gently used winter coats and winter wear to children and families. They also gave out more than 2,000 lightweight jackets to school kids in need.
The six giveaway sites do their best to provide a safe place for families to come and pick up their coats. Many residents signed up for 15-minute appointments online. When they signed up, they had to write down how many children they have, what their genders are and what size coats they wear. Residents and their families were still able to walk in if they were not able to make an appointment. This year, more than 800 families made appointments to receive winter coats.
“I love watching a little kid come walking down the hall proud as can be of the coat he or she just received and seeing the relief on a parent’s face,” Fairfield says. “That is one less thing they have to think about.”
The partner churches that housed the giveaways this past October and November included CUMC in Carmel, Green Valley Church of Christ in Noblesville, Saint Louis De Montfort Catholic Church in Fishers, Arcadia Brethren Church in Arcadia, Sheridan First United Methodist Church in Sheridan and Epiphany Lutheran Church in Westfield.
Even though the giveaways ended in November, there is still an opportunity to receive coats. Merciful HELP Center in Carmel keeps a selection of coats on hand until the end of February for those who may have missed the giveaway opportunities. Anything that is left is saved for the warehouse for next year.
According to Fairfield, there were additional resources offered at the giveaway locations. Called Opportunity Village, this area of additional resources was made up of organizations and agencies around the area where people can sign up and receive help. Fairfield loves the one-stop-shop idea where residents can receive more than just a coat if they need it.
Fairfield’s role as the President of the Board of Directors is entirely on a volunteer basis. As of now, they have an all-volunteer staff who work hard to help their mission succeed. Fairfield leads the board of directors to work through the business side of Kids Coats, making sure the organization is a well-oiled machine so those kids can receive the coats and other resources they need.
“We are always looking for volunteers at all levels of the organization,” Fairfield says. “Everyone is valuable, needed and so much appreciated.”
Those interested can sign up for a place to volunteer on the website. Just about anyone can find a place they can plug in to help year to year. Kids Coats can always use help sorting and distributing at the warehouse, too.
If people do not want to volunteer, they can donate coats and other winter wear at two locations year-round: CUMC and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church/Merciful HELP Center.
If you are interested in receiving coats as a Hamilton County resident, interested in becoming a volunteer or simply curious, visit kidscoats.org for more information.