by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — Two-year-old Marcos Ramirez-Lopez smiled as the Salvation Army soldier slid a pair of bright blue gloves on his hands.
His mother and siblings smiled back at him, surrounded by the lines of coat racks and tables filled with hats, gloves and scarves in the gymnasium of the Salvation Army Building in Logansport Saturday.
By the time he left, Marcos was all ready for the upcoming dropping temperatures — adding the gloves, a coat and a hat to his winter wardrobe.
“With today’s economy, it’s hard to get things at all,” said Sara Ramirez-Lopez, Marcos’ mother. “It’s already getting cold and they needed coats and I just didn’t have the money to buy them. We just moved into an apartment and it’s been real tight.”
Ramirez-Lopez and her children were one of the hundreds of families who came out for Coats for Kids, an annual charitable event organized by the Salvation Army and Church Women United. This year, 880 winter garments were distributed to children, including coats, hats, gloves, scarves and boots. Its volunteers say they’re fueled by a passion for community outreach, gladly providing a service its benefactors say is a much-needed helping hand in persisting difficult economic times.
“We just want them to be warm,” said Linda Whiteman, a Salvation Army soldier, shortly after assisting Marcos with his new apparel. “There are a lot of children out there in need who don’t have winter coats and parents don’t have a way of getting them.”
Whiteman said the event has taken place for more than 20 years and that she’s seen positive turnouts in the three years she’s volunteered. Families began lining up an hour and a half before doors opened Saturday, she added.
Lisa Raderstorf, who co-chaired the event, said the gently used winter garments were provided by donors in the community. Cash donations were also contributed, which were used to buy coats in the spring and summer at lower costs.
“Economically, we’re still not where we need to be as a community,” Raderstorf said. “There’s a bigger cultural pot of people moving into the area with low-paying jobs or who might still not have jobs.”
The poverty rate among children younger than 18 in Cass County was 22 percent in 2012, ranking it 40th out of the state’s 92 counties, according to information published online by STATS Indiana, a statistical data utility maintained by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
Kellee Wolfe came out to Coats for Kids with her son, Colin, 11, and daughter, Zoe, 9.
“I’ve been off work all summer and I needed to get the kids coats and hats, so this is great,” she said.
Betty Staller escorted the Wolfes thorough the coat racks, helping Zoe try on a jacket when she came across a color she liked.
As a member of Church Women United and Corinth Brethren Church near Twelve Mile, Staller said her faith drives her to participate in events like Coats for Kids.
“This is what the Lord wants us to do,” she said. “We are to be his hands and feet. I just praise him that I can do this.”
Anne Jeffers has been volunteering with the Salvation Army for about the last 25 years. She helped out Saturday at an array of long tables displaying a wide assortment of hats, gloves and scarves, giving kids warm smiles as she helped them track down their sizes.
“This is always my favorite project,” she said. “It’s a good outlet to help people.”
Jeffers was one of the 32 people offering their time and effort at the event.
“This is the most volunteers I’ve seen,” she said. “Whenever it has to do with kids, everyone wants to come out and help.”
For Whiteman, it’s because there was a time when she was a lot like the kids perusing the racks and tables in the Salvation Army gymnasium Saturday.
“At one time, I was one of these children,” she said, going on to recall attending her first Sunday at church as a little girl without shoes.
By the next Sunday, she had a pair of shoes thanks to the generosity of others.
“This is my way of giving back,” she said.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @PharosMAK
Coats for Kids 2013 880 winter garments distributed, including: winter coats light coats boots snow pants hats gloves scarves