GENESEE COUNTY — Over 260 coats have been given away to children this year through the Coats for School Kids drive. Angie Ridley, realtor for Complete Realty, LLC, founded the drive about three years ago, along with Pam Ploof, who owns Mega Tan, which is in the same building as Complete.
“Last year, we gave away over 70 coats,” Ridley said. “The first year, we gave away over 60. From last year to this year, I’ve donated $50 out of each transaction to the coat fund. That was something new I started after last year’s coat drive, and that’s why we were able to so much this year.”
Ridley said the coat drive wouldn’t be possible without help from the community.
“People are sending me coats and money from as far away as California through social media,” she said.
Ridley and Ploof have both done a lot of volunteering in the community.
“My brother, Woody Holt, owns ICON Mortgage Lending,” Ridley said. “He had a couple fundraisers which inspired me, and I went back to the office and asked what we can do to help the community more. I said ‘let’s do a coat drive’ and Pam said ‘let’s do it.”’
At first, there was a box for donated coats in the building Complete Realty, LLC and Mega Tan are in.
“It wasn’t big enough,” Ridley said. “So, now we have a room for the coats. I’ve walked into my office and found a bag of coats and didn’t know who it was from.”
In previous years, Ridley and Ploof called the schools to find out where the need was.
“We found out the coats were going to a Coat Closet and not directly to students,” Ridley said. “This year, I got on Facebook and did a shout out to teachers. The response was awesome.”
The teachers sent Ridley their room numbers, the size of the coats they needed and whether the coats are for boys or girls.
“Teachers have the firsthand knowledge of what’s going on with their students,” Ridley said. “The way we did it this year was the best way to do it. It’s also the most rewarding way. To see the kids get the coats, sometimes you have to hold back the tears.”
Ridley heard stories from the teachers about the students, which she said was very emotional.
“One teacher needed smaller sizes because she had some kids that had been affected by lead poisoning,” Ridley said. “In Flint, a remark was made that parents have to buy water over coats. It’s something unless you live there, you don’t think about.”
Ridley and the rest of the crew also delivered to the rural areas.
“Everybody has their own story,” Ridley said. “Teachers would send me pictures of kids with their coats. Kids wrote us letters saying they can go outside and play now and they’re warm when they go to school. They also drew pictures of themselves with the coats on.”
Ridley said they deliver coats from Clio, to Otisville, to Grand Blanc, to Swartz Creek and everywhere in between.
To donate coats or money to Coats for School Kids, go to 4415 Richfield Road Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Sunday 12-4 p.m.