Funeral home seeking children’s coats to help fill local need

NILES — Since November, Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services has been collecting donations for its Coats of Caring program.

While the community has stepped up to donate more than 100 coats for adults, business owner Sabrina Wickens said there is a great need for children’s coats.

“We have only received about five children’s coats, and all of those are gone,” Wickens said. “So, there is still a real need in the community for children’s coats. We have been fortunate that the weather has been better, but we know the cold weather will hit.”

Since starting the program, the business has been collecting coats and partnering with the Ferry Street Resource Center, Evy’s Closet and the Niles Salvation Army to distribute the clothing to those in need. Wickens said these charity organizations have all lamented the same thing, a need for children’s coats.

She encouraged people to look through their closet or hit the sales racks at local stores to find something to donate.

“Having three children ourselves, we know how quickly they grow,” Wickens said. “Most of the time our kids would grow out of them before they were actually worn out. Coming up on Christmas, if they know they have a new coat they are going to give their child … if people can go through their closet and find something to donate that would be great.”

While there is a need for coats for children, Wickens said they will still accept adult coats.

When Wickens and her husband Steve announced that they would be collecting coats for the community, she said it was because they wanted to find a way to give back to Niles.

“We had checked with the Niles Salvation Army and the Ferry Street Resource Center, and neither one had resources to collect the coats,” Wickens said. “We just felt like that was something we could do.”

Because space is limited at Evy’s Closet, the Niles Salvation Army and Ferry Street Resource Center, Halbritter Wickens has been storing the coats and giving them out to the organizations on a needs basis. The location of Halbritter Wickens used to be the site of a former mansion, and so the coats are being stored in an old ballroom on the third floor.

Wickens said the charity organizations have expressed gratitude for the partnership.

“There’s such an appreciation, they are pleased that they are able to serve the community and we are meeting these needs of those who don’t have coats,” Wickens said.

Also partnering to assist with the effort is O’Keefe’s Cleaners, which has volunteered to dry clean coats that cannot be cleaned in the washing machine free of charge.

“O’Keefe Cleaners has been fantastic about getting the coats cleaned,” Wickens said. “We greatly appreciate what they are doing for us. It would get pretty pricey if we had to pay for each of these coats to get dry cleaned.”

Those interested in donating a coat can do so between the funeral services’ regular business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and until noon Saturday at Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services, 615 E. Main St. Coats will be collected year-round.

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