Sixth annual Coats for Kids drive is underwayFor the sixth year running, Santa Cruz’s underprivileged children will feel the warmth of a new winter coat this holiday season. The yearly Coats for Kids drive is organized by Santa Cruz’s Classic Cleaners and its owner, Pamela Whittington. Whittington knows firsthand the importance of a winter coat to a child who doesn’t have much else.
When she was a child, Whittington’s mother suffered a severe stroke and became wheelchair bound. Without medical insurance, her family struggled with tremendous financial burdens, making even food and housing a luxury. But each Christmas, they received a donation of a home-cooked meal, a small toy, and a coat.
“Just before Christmas, the Salvation Army would pull up to our house in their uniforms,” says Whittington. “It was so wonderful and it was so embarrassing.”
But despite the shame she felt, the young Whittington anxiously looked forward to that Christmas delivery.
“That coat … I thought about it all year long,” she says. “It was kind of like, ‘I’m a good girl and I’m going to get a good coat.’”
To Whittington, her yearly coats did much more than protect her from inclement weather, and she knows that the children who benefit from Coats for Kids feel the same way.
“You put on a coat when you’re leaving the house in the morning and it covers up what’s going on underneath. It does more than keep you warm,” she says. “If it weren’t for getting a cool coat, I probably wouldn’t have continued my education. I wouldn’t be the person I am.”
So when Whittington purchased the Classic Cleaners business six years ago, she didn’t hesitate to start the annual clothing drive.
“When I started putting the business plan together, [Coats for Kids] was one of the first things I established,” she says. “I believe this is what businesses need to do. It’s not anything special, it’s just what you’re supposed to do.”
Last year, the Coats for Kids drive collected 9,000 coats and distributed them to children throughout Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Though they have only collected 6,000 coats this season, Whittington is hoping that they can collect 10,000 in time for Christmas. In addition to receiving new and gently used coats, the drive has received monetary donations from Bay Federal Credit Union and an anonymous source. Local Girl Scouts used to the funds to purchase new coats at Kohl’s in the Capitola Mall on Dec. 4.
Whittington hopes to reach the 10,000 coat mark by Dec. 16 so that all of the coats can be distributed by Christmas Eve. However, Classic Cleaners accepts donations year-round and keeps them in storage until the holiday season. The coats will be distributed to children through a number of different organizations, including Head Start and Second Harvest Food Bank. In addition, each foster child in the county will receive a coat through the drive.
For more information about Coats for Kids, visit ClassicCleanersSC.com.