February 5, 2013

Skowhegan chamber, church to distribute winter coats to needy Saturday

The coats and other household items will be distributed free from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Federated Church on Island Avenue

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- The executive director of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce and a pastor from a local church plan to drive to Houlton on Thursday and come back with a truck full of winter coats for low-income families.

The coats -- more than 300 -- and other household items will be distributed free from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Federated Church on Island Avenue.

The items, including sheets, towels, diapers, toys and books, are part of the Somerset Comfort Project, according to Cory King, the chamber's executive director.

He said the items come from an organization in Houlton called Aid For Kids, which taps national nonprofit organizations and large companies for donations. King said he contacted Mark Tanner, pastor at the Federated Church, for help distributing the coats. Rather than contact every service group in the area, Tanner suggested they create one local drop-off site for the items, King said.

"They got a load of winter coats in -- for their whole organization there were 6,500 coats," King said. "These are new coats that are still in the boxes. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up."

King said recipients will be asked to fill out a form reporting the family's income and eligibility for the Houlton group's records. He said there also is a limit on how many coats each family can receive to make sure as many families as possible can be served.

Dannette Ellis, volunteer coordinator for Aid For Kids, said the group Operation Warm, of Pennsylvania, is flexible on donations, so physical proof of low-income eligibility will not be necessary to obtain a coat Saturday.

She said the coats are in children's sizes, but large sizes for older children will fit adults.

"Most of the things are donated, and we just pay the shipping on it," she said. "Then we distribute it to probably 50 or 60 nonprofit groups, Title I schools, food pantries and homeless shelters. We reached out to Skowhegan and to other parts of the state."

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367


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