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Kiwanis Club of Kingsport Provides Warm Coats for Kids


Sharon Hayes

Debbie Allen sees kids everyday who lack basic necessities. Allen is family liaison at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, where 80 percent of students get free or reduced lunch. So when the Kiwanis Club of Kingsport comes calling with warm coats for needy kids, Allen is overjoyed.

“There are some students who will wear the coats every day, all day long, even in the classroom,” said Allen. “What’s great about this – it brings the coats to the children.”

The Kiwanis Club of Kingsport recently distributed 233 coats to needy children in nine schools in Kingsport, including Adams Elementary, Jackson Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, Johnson Elementary, Kennedy Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, Washington Elementary, and the Palmer Early Learning Center.

Typically, teachers identify students who need a coat for the winter, and those names are given to Alisa Emery, coordinator of the school system’s Family Resource Center. Then members of the Kiwanis Club visit the schools and the children are allowed to try on coats to determine appropriate sizes. Allen said that one child actually cried during his fitting because he had to take the coat off.

“We had to assure him that he would be getting a coat,” Allen said.

The Kiwanis Club purchases the coats from its supply partner, Walmart on Fort Henry Drive. Kiwanis Club members distributed all 233 coats to the children in late October, just before a cold snap hit the area.

“My coat’s purple, my favorite color,” said six-year-old Rebekah, a kindergartener at Kennedy Elementary. “It keeps me warm in the cold.”

Amy Duncan, who coordinates the coat distribution at Washington Elementary, said that getting a new coat gives the children more confidence and boosts their self-esteem. “They feel confident having something new,” she said.

Brian Partin, principal at Jefferson Elementary, sent the Kiwanis Club a personal note of thanks. “The students are so excited to receive these coats on an annual basis, which we know would not be possible without your donations,” Partin said.  “Thank you for your leadership and support to our community!”

The Kiwanis Club of Kingsport has been providing warm coats for children for more than 60 years. In recent years, the club has been able to purchase the coats thanks to the community’s support of the club’s annual Darrell Rice Kiwanis Golf Tournament, which is held in early October at Cattails at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center. The club spent $3,500 to purchase coats this year.

“Having basic needs met is often taken for granted,” said Dave Light, club president. “A warm coat is a basic need that makes the quality of life better for a child.”

Helping children is the primary focus of Kiwanis service projects. In Kingsport, club members serve as reading partners to children in kindergarten through third grade at two elementary schools. The club also provides books for classrooms and libraries at those two schools.

For more information on the Kiwanis Club of Kingsport, visit