Kiwanis Club of LC sharing the warmth

Published 8:16 am Tuesday, October 5, 2021

With Southwest Louisiana families spending more time in their houses during the pandemic, now is the perfect time to clean out closets and make sure coats that aren’t being used find a new home.

For the 33rd year, the Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles will host their Coats for Kids drive to keep the community warm this winter. Jackets, sweaters and raincoats are all accepted during the drive, which begins Oct. 24.

“The coat drive originally started in banks, then it expanded into schools and now we’ve branched out to businesses that really have a lot of traffic and want to have a box,” organizer Jim Meyer said. “We take all sizes of coats and we take coats for everyone, not just kids anymore.”

Harris said once the coats are collected from schools and businesses, they will be transported for cleaning to Kiwanis partner Runte Cleaners.

“For the past 31 years, AAA Cleaners has partnered with us for this drive, but they were really destroyed during the hurricanes so Sam Ayaz with Runte Cleaners stepped up to serve this year,” Meyer said. “It’s just been tremendous.”

Meyer said the group was unable to host the drive last year due to the one-two punch of multiple weather events and COVID-19 restrictions, but they are excited to bring it back.

“I think we might have lower donations this year because so many people had their houses wiped out, but I think the need is going to be greater this year,” he said.

Meyer, who beams as he speaks of the coat drive, said one can’t help but smile when they’re part of something so beneficial to the community.

“It’s a great project because it enables us to do things that are helpful for the community and individuals and we feel good about it,” he said. “We’re doing good things, while also having fun.”

A Kiwanis member for 15 years, Meyer joined the Kiwanis Club of Lake Charles the day after his retirement.

“I retired on a Friday, then joined Kiwanis the next day,” he said. “I was working in industry and really focused on the job and my family and now I have the time to be more connected. Plus, this group is a really fun group. If we’re not having fun, something is wrong.”

The club collected more than 1,900 coats and raised $15,000 for local charities at their 2019 event.

“Our 2021 goal is to bounce back and match our record performance in 2019,” he said. “It’s our first year back, though, so if we only get three-quarters of that we’ll still be excited.”

The Coats for Kids Spooktacular will also return to add an extra dimension to the coat drive.

Set for 5-9 p.m. Oct. 29 at Crying Eagle Brewing Company, attendees of the free, family-friendly event who bring a coat upon entering will receive a glass, drink token and raffle ticket.

“We are grateful to partner for five years on the Spooktacular project with Eric, Fran and Larry Avery, the owners of Crying Eagle,” Meyer said. “They’ve been so supportive over the years. If you haven’t been out there recently, they’ve really built up their outside area during the pandemic and they have a stage now and a bistro. It’s a great place.”

Live music, a silent auction, firemen coat relay race and craft stations for children are planned. The money raised from the auction as well as donations from sponsors will be split between Potters House, ETC Harbour House, The Lord’s Place, Boys Village, Oasis Women’s Shelter, CPSB McKinney-Vento for Homeless Children, Abraham’s Tent, Care Help of Sulphur, DeWanna’s Closet and CARC. The charities were chosen because of their services to underprivileged and special needs children and adults.

The coat drives continues through Nov. 19.

Any remaining coats left over after the needs of local school children are met will also be distributed to these agencies.

Meyer said Kiwanis are volunteers dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time.

“Events like this are important because they help firm up the connections in the community between the people who have resources to help and the people who need help,” Meyer said. “We’re the facilitators for this grand connection. Everyone needs coats — at least for a few weeks here in Louisiana.”