Bright Futures kicks off coat drive this week

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, October 31, 2015

Coats, hats and gloves are vital to keeping out the winter chill, but for some Beaufort County students, layering up is not an available option.

According to the latest census data, more than 19 percent of families in Beaufort County live below the poverty level, higher than data for the whole state.

Some families do not even have the means to buy their child a coat for winter, said Robin McKeithan, an affiliate with Bright Futures Beaufort County, and business manager with Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

To help combat that need, she said Bright Futures, which strives to meet the needs of less privileged students in Beaufort County, decided to partner with Beaufort County Schools to hold a winter coat drive from Nov. 2 to Nov. 13.

McKeithan said the idea came about at a parent advisory group meeting with Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps, and a parent suggested enlisting the help of Bright Futures.

In the past, the school system has held clothing drives for students who came to school not dressed appropriately, but since the dress code was relaxed some this year, the advisory group thought it would be better to hone those efforts into a coat drive, she said.

“We went through so many stories last year,” McKeithan said. “Things that, you know, you and I probably take for granted.”

“Bright Futures is about meeting the basic needs of students.”

She said Bright Futures is partnering with local businesses through the Chamber of Commerce to designate drop-off points throughout the community.

As of now, drop-off points will be at all Beaufort County schools, Coastal Insurance on West 15th Street, Edward Jones Investments on Highland Drive and State Employees’ Credit Union on 15th Street.

School counselors will assess the need at their school and then contact Bright Futures for the coats, as they are needed, McKeithan said. Gently used coats, gloves and preferably new hats will be accepted in all sizes for students pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“A lot of drives are, you have to go out and buy new things, but we’re accepting gently used,” she said. “There are things sitting in our closet and our garages that we don’t need anymore.”

Sarah Hodges, public information officer for Beaufort County Schools, said she thinks there is a big need for this type of assistance.

“It is mind blowing to see what kids can come to school without,” she said. “Our teachers can only do so much.”

Hodges said the school system is grateful for Bright Futures’ help and hopes meeting this basic need will give students the “fighting chance they deserve.”

“Bright Futures is helping meet so many needs in our county. It has been a tremendous addition the county,” she said. “The safety and the wellbeing of our students is what we’re all about.”

“Our goal is for all children in Beaufort County to stay warm this winter,” McKeithan said.

The winter coat drive will run from Nov. 2-13. For more information about the drive or to volunteer to be a drop-off location, call 252-946-9168.