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St. John Parish collecting for 1st Coats for Kids Drive

LAPLACE — Children are unable to regulate their body temperature the same way adults do and are vulnerable to quickly developing hypothermia without protection from the cold, according to a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

St. John the Baptist Parish is collecting new and gently used coats for children up to age 18 to share the gift of warmth and generosity this holiday season.

The first Coats for Kids Drive is accepting donations through Friday, Dec. 18 at the following drop-box locations: St. John the Baptist Parish Government Complex (1811 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace), LaPlace Cleaners (809 Main Street), REGALA Gym (200 REGALA Park Road in Reserve) and the St. John the Baptist Parish Courthouse (2393 Highway 18 in Edgard). Kids sizes 5 through 16 are being collected.

The need is especially great this year given the financial strains imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. John United Way participated in a 2020 study coordinated by the Louisiana Association of United Ways. Prior to the pandemic, the number of Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families was at a 10-year high. Survey results indicated that, in the months following the beginning of the pandemic, 40 percent of families below the ALICE threshold applied for unemployment, 30 percent applied for SNAP/food stamps, 26 percent used a food pantry or food bank, 24 percent borrowed from family or friends and 16 percent increased a balance on a credit card to make ends meet.

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said this is one of many firsts this year as the new administration finds innovative ways to connect with community members in need.

“The Coat Drive, and many other of our initiatives this year, were inspired by my desire to assist in giving back to our community in need, and to bring our community together. This year has been an extremely difficult one for a lot of families in our community, and the true spirit of the holidays comes from giving back, giving thanks and lending a helping hand to those in need,” Hotard said.

While specific details are still being finalized, Hotard said coordinators will be working with the St. John Department of Health & Human Services to identify families in need of winter coats. However, residents with children in need of coats may call 985-652-9569 for assistance.
“Our goal is to assist as many families as we can, but just knowing that we are giving the gift of warmth to any number of families is meaningful,” Hotard said. “Most of us have a few jackets or coats in our closets that we do not wear, and we would be happy to take them off your hands.”

While the Parish is exclusively collecting children’s coats at this time, Hotard said most of the local community nonprofit organizations accept adult clothing donations.

The Department of Health & Human Services works in collaboration with other entities to reduce poverty in low-income households, assist families in times of crisis and increase self-sufficiency through financial assistance, case management services, educational programs and more.

Some initiatives within the department include summer feeding programs, bi-monthly food service and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

For more information on the many resources and programs for the community, please reach out to the Department of Health & Human Services at 985-536-4955.