Coat Closet Seeks Help

Photo by Joselyn King Coat Closet of Belmont County volunteer Margaret Paolucci shows off coats donated to the coat closet.

Just as the temperatures start to dip, a lack of donations may put a deep freeze on the Coat Closet of Belmont County.

The coat closet already has given out 491 free coats since opening up for its 14th winter season in late October. The number of children’s coats available is dwindling, and there aren’t funds available to purchase more.

Coat closet volunteers had hoped to keep the closet going through the end of January. Last year, the closet distributed 981 coats during the season, and 115 of them were handed out on one day.

“If we don’t get monetary donations, we will be closing early,” said volunteer Margaret Paolucci. “There just are not enough children’s coats.”

Those wanting to donate may mail checks to the Coat Closet of Belmont County, c/o Margaret Paolucci, 65320 Hillview Ave., Bellaire; or they may stop in to the coat closet during its hours of operations.

The coat closet is located in the basement of the Bellaire Christian Church at 3565 Belmont St. in Bellaire, and it is open to the public from 3-5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

No one has to show any identification, or fill out any application to receive a coat.

“You just have to have a need,” Paolucci said. “We serve both kids and their parents.”

The Coat Closet of Belmont County began in 2002, and was initially located in the Indian Run Learning Center. Only coats for children were available during the first year.

But Paolucci said she couldn’t help but notice many of the parents also had no coats when they came to the coat closet.

“I asked one young man if he had a coat,” she said. “He told me he didn’t, but that he could borrow one when he needed one. That’s when I decided we should start carrying adult coats.”

In past years, there weren’t many adult coats at the coat closet. They tend to cost more, and the volunteers instead put money into purchasing new children’s coats, relying on donations of used adult coats.

This year an abundance of adult coats has been donated.

The Macy’s department store in St. Clairsville provides many of the new children’s coats to the coat closet at deeply discounted rates, Paolucci said. Teacher Lisa Schlanz at Our Lady of Peace School in Ohio County also organizes a collection of coats at the school for donation.

Paolucci admitted to having gone home “and cried many times” following an afternoon at the coat closet after seeing young children come in wearing nothing but layers of hooded sweatshirts.

“In this county, why are we letting this happen?” she asked. “I’ve always said if everybody would do a little bit to help, there would be no poverty. But they don’t, and there it is.”

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