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Rotary Club on mission to provide coats to kids

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

As a guidance counselor for the two elementary schools in the Carlynton School District, Sheree Lee sees the students' needs first hand on an almost-daily basis.

And those needs have only proliferated since the recession kicked in during the past five years.

“There's academic needs of kids, and they need academic education,” Lee said. “(But) I think there are also other needs the children have that just aren't academic; the basic needs of food, clothes and roof over your head . . . having a warm coat.”

Lee began partnering with the Carnegie-Collier Rotary Club four years ago for the “Shoes That Fit” program, which provides vouchers for children at Carnegie Elementary School to purchase shoes.

Last year, the partnership expanded to include the Salvation Army's Chartiers Valley Service Center, as the organizations combined to purchase coats for students at Carnegie Elementary.

But the Rotary Club's biggest contribution came this year. Hartwood Acres, another sponsor of the coat program at the school, had to drop out when Allegheny County canceled the annual Celebration of Lights, so the Rotary Club kicked in nearly $2,500 to make sure the coats could still be purchased.

“Putting money back in the local community and helping children is one of our primary goals,” Rotary Club President Patty John said. “We put a high priority on literacy and hunger. We also believe if a child is warm and comfortable, they are more likely to learn and be comfortable in their surroundings.”

The money provided should allow for the purchase of 45 coats, Chartiers Valley Service Center Director George Barron said. That matches the total from last year.

“(Lee) had kind of put a bug in our ear that there are still children who needed coats, who needed winter outerwear,” Barron said. “We approached the Rotary Club and asked if they would be willing to sponsor some children from Carnegie Elementary with coats this year. The answer right away was a resounding yes.”

Barron said the coats have not been purchased yet. Whereas last year the Salvation Army and Rotary Club purchased the outerwear directly and held a distribution day at the school, the organizations this year were considering a way to allow the children to pick out their coats.

“Some haven't had coats for several years,” Barron said. “Some have outgrown them or had to pass them down.”

In addition to the coat and shoe purchases, the Carnegie-Collier Rotary Club provided food at Carnegie Elementary and also gives a dictionary to every third-grader at Carnegie Elementary and Chartiers Valley Intermediate School.

John said she would like to expand the shoes program to other schools the local Rotary Club covers.

“Every time there's need, and the needs have grown, I would say the Rotary and Salvation Army always answer the call,” Lee said. “They always leave no stone unturned, and they really help us. They never say no.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 412-380-8527 or dgulasy@tribweb.com.

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