Last year, Coats for Kids, a nonprofit that has been providing winter clothing to local families in northwest Montana for 35 years, helped 500 kids in the Flathead and surrounding areas. But this year, Director Tiffany Suhr says that number will likely be around 800.
“Our office is so overwhelmed right now,” Suhr said. “Parents are reaching out and messaging me on Facebook and the website and calling because they are wondering how it’s gonna work this year.”
Last year, outerwear was donated via the “Warm Up the Flathead” event in collaboration with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Posse. But this year, Suhr is working directly with schools to give away coats, boots, hats, gloves and socks.
Suhr buys the clothes in bulk from Costco, and this year she has to bag each item, like bundles of socks, separately to avoid contamination and mitigate COVID-19 transmission.
Aside from a more labor-intensive operation, Suhr says families are less financially stable this year amid the pandemic, creating a higher demand.
“There are parents that can’t work because their children are doing school from home or maybe their job has decreased hours significantly,” Suhr said. “There’s just a lot of insecurity and a lot more in need.”
Suhr says the nonprofit is giving away more outerwear than normal this year, and they are already running out of inventory after only donating to three schools so far.
Kalispell Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen all pledged to donate 400 pairs of boots this year, Keller Williams pledged to donate funds to purchase 400 pairs of socks and Pepsi-Cola of Kalispell and Missoula pledged to donate 400 gloves.
The nonprofit also purchased a bus this year, which it plans to transform into a warm-up bus and use in parades.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.