INDIANAPOLIS — Kids grow up fast and often need a new coat every year. For over 35 years, WTHR and the Salvation Army have partnered to make sure central Indiana kids stay warm with the Coats for Kids program. Children received coats donated by the community during the annual distribution event Saturday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
"The forecast really fits for today because we have a number of people who now need a coat and they're going to walk in cold and walk out nice and snuggly warm with the coat," said WTHR meteorologist Chuck Lofton, representing 13News at the event.
Families who preregistered showed up at designated appointment times to select a coat for each child.
"It's a big help, especially with us going through a pandemic,” said Nancy Torres, a mother who brought three children to get coats. “It helps us a lot this year."
The community donated almost 5,000 new and gently used coats this year. Classic Cleaners collects and cleans the coats.
“We have 18 locations, and we take them to our main plant in Castleton and clean the coats, check them, make sure they are getting ready for the kids,” said Classic Cleaners sales manager Mike Washington.
COVID-19 forced a drive-thru Coats For Kids distribution last year. An appointment system was used to control the flow of the crowd.
This year brings a return to volunteers helping families and children find the right fit and style among coats displayed on racks inside the Blue Ribbon Pavilion.
PHOTOS: Coats for Kids distribution 2021
But the Salvation Army still kept assigned appointments. That prevented people from standing in long lines waiting to shop and the display area was not nearly as congested as years past.
"To be able to try on the coats is so much better,” said Major Marc Johnson, Salvation Army Indiana Division Commander. “The kids' eyes light up. They can say, 'No not that one. This one feels good.' So, they walk away with something very useful but yet they feel really good about it as well."
Each child also received a hat, gloves and a scarf.
"They're definitely ready to play in the snow and be warm," said Amber Davis, a mother who brought six children from her family to receive coats.
A member of the Salvation Army offered to pray with each family at the exit.
About 2,700 children were registered to receive coats Saturday. The remaining coats will be distributed through schools and agencies, with some coats going to Afghan children living at Camp Atterbury.