Monday, December 16, 2013

Coats for Kids 2013

Our Ventura Rotary Coats for Kids party was a huge success!  The Ventura County Star even covered it for the newspaper.  Here is the article:

Ventura Children Learn Spirit of Giving, Receiving

Ventura County Real Estate
Guillermo Ramirez (left), a volunteer from Ventura High School, helps Jonathan Vargas and his brother Alexis try on jackets during a Coats for Kids event Wednesday in Ventura.

Making a spin worthy of a top model, Loviah Taylor showed off her new pink coat with a faux fur trim on the hood that perfectly set off her sparkly red shoes, Hello Kitty shirt and black-and-red skirt.

“That’s the perfect jacket for you,” said Staci John of the downtown Ventura Rotary, who was Loviah’s buddy for the day.

“It’s cozy,” the 6-year-old replied. “When I wear it to school, I’ll be nice and warm.”

Loviah and her brother Noah, 7, both students at E.P. Foster School in Ventura, spent a day Wednesday with 54 other children treated to a shopping excursion at the J.C. Penney store at Pacific View mall.

Ventura County Real Estate
Ventura Rotarians Mary Kay Doubek (left) and Mary Saputo help Laisha Jimenez and Joel Snyder decide on jewelry gifts to take home during the annual Coats for Kids event Wednesday. The jewelry was made and donated by Saputo.

Each child was able to pick out $60 worth of clothing their parents had indicated they needed, according to Rotary President Irene Henry. The club donated $50 per child and J.C. Penney offers an additional 20 percent discount.

“We found out that many of these kids don’t have Christmas,” Henry said. “There’s no tree and no holiday spirit, due to their economic position.”

The children went shopping before returning to the Ventura Unified School District office in west Ventura for a holiday luncheon where they made Santa hats, received stuffed toys, decorated cookies and were able to pick out a new or used, cleaned winter coat, with the help of their Rotary buddy.

Superintendent Trudy Arriaga led the festivities, and the children enjoyed a hamburger lunch followed by a visit from Santa, who came to distribute gifts selected for each child.

Arriaga said such events not only give children needed items, but also teach them the value of giving to others.

Ventura County Real Estate
Vincent Jefferson is happy to find a jacket that he likes after trying on several during a Coat for Kids event Wednesday in Ventura.   

“These groups are a tremendous model for the children. They are receiving, but they are seeing the gift of giving,” the superintendent said. “This is my favorite part, seeing the adults who are giving enjoying the children.”

The adults get more out of the day than the children, she said.

Rotarian David Bianco, who let Noe Martinez, 4, pick out shoes, pants and a hat during their shopping excursion, said being with his buddy was a holiday treat.

“He’s a good shopper. He’s a good decision-maker. We were done in a heartbeat,” Bianco said. “I’m having a wonderful time.”

The outerwear from the Coats for Kids campaign is collected and dry cleaned by Four Seasons Cleaners.
Sonny Shah, owner of the dry cleaner chain, said his three stores — two in Ventura and one in Oxnard — have cleaned more than 40,000 coats over the years.

“It gets especially cold here,” Shah said.

Ellyn Dembowski, Rotary member and coat drive organizer, said donations of coats have been slow this year, with 1,000 collected so far.

“But we’ve been getting more coats this week as the weather has been colder,” Dembowski said. “And we will be getting more when schools close for the holidays and donate the items left behind in the lost and found.”

Ventura County Real Estate
Raeyn Gott receives a gift from Santa during the annual Coats for Kids event Wednesday in Ventura.

The Salvation Army and Project Understanding will be among the social service and outreach groups distributing the coats in the next few weeks.

At the school district holiday luncheon, where high school students from the Rotaract Club also helped, the younger children not only received a personalized gift from Santa, but also were allowed to pick out a pair of earrings.

The jewelry was made by Rotarian Mary Saputo, who is also the president of Canine Animal Rescue League. She sells the sparkly items as a fundraiser for the league.

Saputo told the children they could give the jewelry to their mothers, sisters or friends.