Members from all 10 of Oak Park School District 97’s parent teacher organizations (PTOs) have teamed up to host a winter coat drive for children in need. Aptly named Share the Warmth, the drive, which runs from Oct. 25 to 29, is part of the parent leaders’ mission to bring residents together and work toward a common goal, said Pemalyn Hessing, former PTO president at Lincoln Elementary School.

“We need to come together behind our ideals of community and care and help our most vulnerable population,” said Hessing, who helped organize the drive. 

Acceptable donations include new or gently-used winter coats and jackets for babies, children and teens, said Michele Jurewicz, another organizer and Beye School PTO board member.

Those interested in donating can also drop off snow boots and snow pants and other winter accessories, including hats, scarves and gloves, Hessing and Jurewicz said.

“I know a lot of parents who buy coats a little bigger [for their children],” Hessing said. “I do, but the shoes, that’s going to change. … That can definitely hit the pocket, especially if you have multiple children.”

Everyone is welcome to participate in the coat drive, not just D97 families, Jurewicz said. Collection boxes will be placed outside the following schools: Lincoln Elementary, 1111 S. Grove Ave.; Longfellow Elementary, 715 Highland Ave.; Whittier Elementary, 715 N. Harvey Ave.; Mann Elementary, 921 N. Kenilworth Ave.; Irving Elementary, 1125 S. Cuyler Ave. and Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave.

Donations can be made during school hours, Jurewicz said, adding residents may want to partner with families who have children in the district for easier drop-offs. The donations will benefit the Kids’ Kloset at First United Church, 848 Lake St. in Oak Park. Starting next month, families in need of coats and other clothing gear can schedule in-person appointments with Kids’ Kloset, she said.

Jurewicz added she hopes people will take on this effort and lend a helping hand.

“I named the program ‘Share the Warmth’ because I know that the Oak Park community is genuinely concerned about its community members and providing for one another,” she said. “So regardless of what’s going on in everyone’s lives, we always look out for each other first.”

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