Coats for Kids spreads warmthA Kensal woman discussed her children’s Christmas list Tuesday. The holiday is weeks away, but in order to prepare, a Salvation Army official recorded the requests of her children, ages 6, 2 and 1.
A Kensal woman discussed her children’s Christmas list Tuesday. The holiday is weeks away, but in order to prepare, a Salvation Army official recorded the requests of her children, ages 6, 2 and 1.
The 6-year-old, he likes video games and wrestling, and the 2-year-old likes dolls and Dora the Explorer, said their mother, 22-year-old Amanda Dockter. And the 1-year-old, who turns 2 in January, he likes whatever his sister likes.
Dockter stopped by the Coats for Kids distribution center at the Salvation Army game room in hopes of receiving Christmas gifts for her little ones. In addition to giving away used coats to children and families, the Salvation Army is taking names and gift requests for Angel Tree recipients.
Coats for Kids is an annual program in which the church gives hats, gloves, mittens, etc., to families in need at no charge. Salvation Army has organized the program for more than 20 years and hopes to distribute as many as 200 coats this year, said Lt. Teresa Brecto.
As part of the Angel Tree program, members of the community select an “angel” and purchase gifts based on that child’s wishes and preferences. Jamestown area residents may have seen the angel trees — evergreens with paper angel cut-outs and requests like tools, trucks and/or board games for 8-year-old boy — at their church, grocery store or other area business. After individuals donate the gifts, Salvation Army distributes them to the families who asked for assistance.
Dockter stopped at the Salvation Army Tuesday after a friend told her about the program. The past year or so has been a difficult one financially for Dockter and her husband. Their youngest son, Parker, has a respiratory illness. In fact, the boy was supposed to have surgery but couldn’t because he wasn’t well enough for the operation.
For treatment, Dockter takes him to Fargo every Monday. Mondays are her only day off, she said, saying she’s studying nursing at Valley City State University and plans to be a registered nurse one day. When she’s not in class, she’s a certified nursing assistant at Jamestown Regional Medical Center.
Between the cost of commuting from Kensal to Valley City and/or Jamestown, and from Kensal to Fargo once a week as well as medical and living expenses, Dockter said her family has struggled to make ends meet. Asking for assistance at Salvation Army Tuesday was the first time she’d ever requested help from an organization like it.
“It’s hard to deal with, but then I also think about the future and how it’s not always going to be like this,” she said.
Like Dockter, about 50 families receive help for the Salvation Army each month. Half of them have never received assistance from the organization before, Brecto said. Many times, an illness, a car repair or some other unexpected expense means a family has to choose between buying groceries and paying the electric bill, Brecto said.
Dockter’s children are otherwise healthy, well-fed and insured. Dockter said she tries not to let the children know about the finances, but she’s not sure how the family would afford a new bike for their 2-year-old, Calli, something the girl “really, really” wants so she can be like her older brother. Dockter figured her daughter would never receive such a gift.
Never say never, Brecto said, inscribing on the form Dockter had completed.
Last year, the church’s Angel Tree program assisted about 400 people and will likely help that many this year too. Community members requesting that assistance can sign up for the program when they pick up their children’s coats between 10 a.m. and noon and 1 and 4 p.m. through Friday and between 9 a.m. and noon Saturday.
After some coaxing, Dockter picked out three coats for her family, including hats, gloves and mittens to match. Many of those accessories were homemade and donated by a woman in Bismarck, Brecto said.
The coats were donated by individuals in the community. Of those, about 80 percent were donated in time for a complimentary dry cleaning, courtesy of One Hour Martinizing in downtown Jamestown.
Brecto hopes more families that struggle this season take advantage of the free coats offered this week. Too soon, temperatures will fall, she said.
“Take your pride and stuff it,” she said. “And come out get yourself a jacket for you and your children.”
It’s not heart-breaking to help the families, she said, but it is heart-breaking to see a young child have to walk to school with nothing but a hooded sweatshirt or coat unfastened because the zipper broke.
“Don’t be too proud to accept help,” she said, saying Salvation Army will take some of the leftover coats to area schools as well.
The coats are free this week, she said, but after, the Salvation Army thrift store will sell them for about $7.
Families who receive coats and sign up for the Angel Tree will also receive a Christmas basket, filled with either a turkey or a ham and all the fixings for a holiday dinner. Brecto said this is unlike years past when families got a voucher for Christmas dinner. Too often, the families used the voucher for ordinary groceries, and Brecto said she wants to ensure their Christmas meals are special.
So far, about eight volunteers, many of them from RSVP+, have assisted with sorting, organizing and distributing the coats.
The community can still help too, Brecto said, saying Salvation Army can use more coats and winter accessories as well as donated wrapping paper, items for the food baskets and money. Individuals can also help by attending the Salvation Army’s Fall Fest Harvest Dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 11. Proceeds from the $5 ticket benefit the Angel Tree food baskets.
To pick up or donate a coat, stop by the Salvation Army game room on the north side of the building at 320 First Ave. North in Jamestown.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com