We all know how cold Cleveland winters can be and that is why Coats For Kids has been helping to keep kids warm for almost 40 years.

But on Feb. 3, 2019, the building that housed their warehouse burned. Everything was lost.

“We didn’t even have a pencil to write with,” said Operations Manager Loretta Arnold.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, as word got out, support poured in. They have a new warehouse now, although it’s mostly empty.

Executive Director Debbie Martinko said, “I don’t think it ever was a question of we’re not going to move forward. The concept of starting over--pretty overwhelming. We had a lot of things that we'd accumulated over the years and when you think about replacing all that where do you even start.”

They are starting with the basics. Of course, new and gently worn coats, of all sizes from infant to adult are needed. Then, there are everyday items:

30-gallon trash bags

42-gallon heavy duty trash bags

Sharpie markers, (black, fine point and magnum)

Box cutters/blades

Scissors (inexpensive)

2” packing tape dispensers and tape rolls (hand-held, refillable)

Speedway gas cards

Gift Cards (Discount Drug Mart, Walmart/Sam’s Club)

Disposable rubber gloves, sizes S, M, L, XL

Printer/copier paper

Legal Pads (8.5 x 11)

Blue and Black pens

Dryer Sheets

If you can help “Fill the Truck”, you can drop off donations Thursday, June 27 from Noon to 10 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, 8971 Wilcox Drive, Twinsburg. The truck, provided by Berea Moving and Storage, will be in place through the weekend at the hotel.

 If you are unable to drop off Thursday, you can drop off items through 7 PM on Saturday, June 29. If you can’t make it to Twinsburg, you can go online to https://coatsforkidscleveland.org/ click the link below the photos to support the Coats For Kids fire relief effort and make a donation directly into the Coats For Kids account, along with its partners at Operation Warm. Donations made here will be used to buy new coats for the year’s campaign.

Last year, Coats For Kids gave away between 20,000 and 25,000 coats, many through school systems in the 5-county Greater Cleveland area. Martinko said that even though the economy is improving, the need is still there.

“…No matter what we have, it's still not enough,” added Martinko.

And back on the day of the fire, Arnold remembers looking at all the rubble and thinking Coats For Kids cannot go away. She and everyone else involved with the charity are determined to move forward.

 “Kids are our future," she said.  "If they don't have a warm coat, they don't go to school, they don't get an education and that to me is one of the worst things in the world. We are going to be ready. That's my promise.”

WKYC is proud to be a sponsor of “Fill the Truck”.