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Winter coat giveaway warms the body and the soul


Jamaiya English shook her head at the baby blue jacket.

Volunteers at Tuley Park Field House searched the pile of winter wear laid out on the table for something that would earn the 5-year-old's approval. They found a puffy pink coat.

State Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, took the coat and helped the child put it on, then zipped it up for her while the room watched.

"I like this one," Sims said. "Do you like this one?"

Jamaiya nodded sheepishly.

The girl's mother, Jessica Terry, stood next to her daughter during the fitting. Terry said she walked about a mile to the field house on East 90th Place in the Burnside neighborhood in hopes of finding winter wear for her children, who are 8, 6 and 5.

"I really needed it," said Terry, who heard about the coat drive at her children's school. "I think it's a blessing to give the kids coats."

The event was co-hosted by Family Health Network and Southwest Church of Christ, said Ava Shelby, who works for Family Health Network. It is the fourth year for the coat drive, she said.

Free coats for CHA kids take edge off early chill
Free coats for CHA kids take edge off early chill
Combined, the organizations and others brought about 1,000 coats to the field house on Saturday, and about half were snapped up by needy families during the five-hour drive, staff said. Leftover coats will go to local churches and a neighborhood mission.

Constance Marsh, 66, came to the coat drive in search of winter protection for her neighbors. She said her husband's caretaker has three children, ages 9, 2 1/2 and 5 months.

"They need stuff so I'm here," Marsh said.

She praised the event for its impact on the community.

"Anything to help people because the economy is so (bad)," Marsh said. "They need help. They need help."

Volunteer Letha Gillis, 67, said she was surprised by the need.

"To see people come in, you just would not believe so many people would be in need of coats," Gillis said.

Gillis volunteered through Southwest Church of Christ, she said, and found it inspirational "seeing people happy and that there's still kind people in spite of all the violence."