The club met at Stein Mart, 3211 Peoples St., on Oct. 14 to pack the coats. Officials say 150 of those coats will go to boys and girls in Johnson City Schools’ Homeless Education Program. The rest will be distributed to homeless vets, the Coalition for Kids and to the Salvation Army.
Some of the coats were purchased at a discount through a grant from Rotary International. Others were donated to the Rotary project by Stein Mart vendors.
“This project expanded rapidly, more than we anticipated, thanks to the gracious donations of Stein Mart vendors,” said Rotary Club member Cathy Loye, the general manager of Stein Mart, who helped to oversee the project.
She said the project has “been rewarding” for everyone involved, noting that collecting the coats was a collaborative effort on the part of Stein Mart, Rotarians and coat vendors.
“It goes to show that when everyone comes together as one, just how much good you can do,” Loye said.
Dr. Jim Holt, president of the Evening Rotary Club, said the coats project was inspired by a successful shoe donation drive for homeless students last year. He said the club also donates food and toiletries to the school program each month.
“Rotary is about service, and this is one of our service projects,” Holt said.
Syndee DeDusk, coordinator of the school system’s homeless student program, said the federal McKinney-Vento Act pays for many of the services she provides. She said the program relies heavily on donations from the community, churches and civic groups.
There were 265 students in Johnson City Schools designated as homeless in the 2018-19 school year. That number is more than 80 students for the current school year, which began in early August.