Local agencies team up for winter coat and gear drive

Scott Kelley, president of the board of directors for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Greene County, and Aaron Houser, CASA executive director, pose with some of the donations the nonprofit agency has received for an ongoing Children’s Winter Coat and Gear Drive being coordinated by CASA and Loved Again Charities. (Photo by Steve Barrett)

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Greene County and Loved Again Charities are teaming up for their second annual Children’s Winter Coat and Gear Drive.

New and gently used coats, boots, gloves, hats and scarves may be donated at the CASA office, located at 52 S. Church St. in Waynesburg, at any time before Nov. 30.

The distribution of winter gear will take place during Waynesburg’s Holiday Open House Dec. 3.

Aaron Houser, CASA executive director, said the initiative began last year when he met Tammy Davis, president of Loved Again Charities, and the two began brainstorming ideas about a winter drive.

“Tammy had already begun collecting winter clothing donations and her agency had been putting together emergency ‘Go’ bags containing clothes, toiletries and other items,” he said. “We got to know each other because those emergency bags are used by CYS and other agencies we are affiliated with.”

Once they began talking, Houser said Davis told him her agency had an influx of winter clothing and she wanted to coordinate a coat distribution, but her office wasn’t large enough.

“I took a look around the CASA office and I told her, ‘If you got the gear, we got the space,’” he said. “Thanks to the Greene County community and its army of volunteers, we pulled it all off in three weeks.”

Although the limited time frame was challenging, Houser said he was pleased with how well the initiative came together.

“Once we got the word out, people were chipping in to help and donate,” he said. “The sentiment was shared by everyone involved: It’s a worthwhile cause, so why not try?”

Houser said more than 60 children were present for distribution, and by the end of the week nearly 100 were able to receive winter gear.

“Last year we were able to outfit 96 local children with winter gear, including coats, boots, hats, gloves, sock, blankets and scarves,” he said. “We anticipate a higher need this year, and we are preparing to completely outfit 150 children.”

Scott Kelley, president of the CASA board of directors, said this year’s initiative has been off to a good start thanks to community efforts.

“The Greene County community has poured out their hearts and emptied their closets to support this event and these kids. It’s truly humbling to be a part of that,” Kelley said. “Donations have come in from across the county. Private donors, local churches, and other nonprofits and agencies have all given winter gear or promised volunteer hours.”

Houser stressed, however, that coats, boots, blankets and socks are still needed, and residents are encouraged to drop off new and gently used items at the CASA office before Nov. 30.

All Greene County children, ages birth through 17, are invited to stop by the CASA office Dec. 3 during the Waynesburg Holiday Open House, and no appointment or RSVP is needed.

Incorporated as a nonprofit in 2018, CASA of Greene County immediately began training local volunteers to serve as court appointed advocates for children. Houser said these volunteer advocates are appointed by the county’s court of common pleas to the most sensitive and problematic cases currently moving through the county’s Children and Youth Services.

“CASAs serve as a friend and mentor to their assigned child and as an independent advocate to the court,” he explained. “Concerned members of the community created CASA of Greene County and got it off the ground in 2018. Since that time, our volunteer Advocates have donated well over $100,000 in volunteer hours to the 52 local children that CASA has advocated for to date.”

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