Leonard L. Hayhurst
- The Coshocton Opportunity School collected 96 coats and other items for a winter clothing drive.
- Coats in bags with hangers were placed on trees Monday along Main Street by students and staff.
- The items are for the homeless and needy of the area with hopes of more donations coming in as the campaign becomes more known.
- The Opportunity School gives at-risk students ages 16 to 21 a chance for their high school diploma.
COSHOCTON – A unique clothing drive by the Coshocton Opportunity School to help the homeless and needy this winter had items claimed in just a few hours.
Diana McKee, a paraprofessional at the school, said she saw on Facebook where coats for the needy were put on trees in Europe with notes about their previous use. She sent information about it to her bosses, who believed it was a good and different idea.
Staff and 38 students on Monday afternoon walked Main Street to hang the coats from trees between Second and Seventh streets. Roger Moore, school superintendent, said all 96 coats and other items had been claimed by Tuesday morning.
They are always looking for ways their students can give back to the community and that’s been tough this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, McKee said. In the past, students have volunteered for the food pantry at New Life Ministries and clean up at Lake Park.
“Our kids haven’t been able to really do any community service this year because of COVID and social distancing, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to do their community service. It’s outside, socially distanced and giving back to the community,” she said.
The school collected the new and gently used coats via public donations. Tags on the coats marked the sizes, which ranged from small children’s sizes to 2x for adults. Most had gloves and socks in the pockets and many had other accessories like hats and scarves. Nikko’s Services donated the hangers and plastic bags with other bags from Otsego Carryout.
McKee hoped as people saw the coats on the trees and learned about the project they could get more donations and replenish stock. Moore said he has spoken to a few churches about possibly offering more donations as well. It’s hoped the drive can become an annula event.
Moore said they talked about those not in need or wanting to cause trouble taking the items, but knowing the people of Coshocton he didn’t think that would be a major issue and it didn’t seem to be. He said people so far have been receptive to the project with their donations.
“We’ve had donations from a lot of residents in town. Our staff donated, our board donated, retired teachers from the city donated,” Moore said. “It’s been a real community effort and it does the heart well to see this type of project and the hard work our kids and staff have put in.”
Founded in 2006, the Coshocton Opportunity School is a community school designed to meet the needs of at-risk students ages 16 to 21. It provides dropouts and other non-traditional students a chance to attain their high school diplomas. Along with standard curriculum, the school also offers classes relating to life skills, parenting, relationship building and more for life after high school.
Moore knows the perception of opportunity school students is not always favorable, but they’re good youth with big hearts, he said, and this type of activity should demonstrate that to the public.
“It’s a chance for our students to realize the importance of community service and giving back to a community that obviously gives to them,” Moore said of the coat drive. “It’s been good for our staff to work together with the kids. It’s been a really enjoyable project.”