Above: Care Net and Safe Place collected 150 coats to donate the Coat Closet, an organization that helps people who need a winter coat. (Courtesy Photo)

Winter is still officially a few days away, but the recent plunging temperatures indicate it’s already here. For some people, the cold weather can add a financial burden as they struggle to buy coats for themselves or their children, but for the past 20 years, a local club has been helping them.

The Esprit Etc. Study Club manages the Community Coat Closet, a project that helps anyone in need. One single mother, who asked that her name not be used, said the Coat Closet helped her with coats for her three children last year.

“I had just gotten divorced, and I couldn’t afford coats for the kids,” she said. “One of my kid’s teachers told me about a place that would help, and they were very nice. I was embarrassed that I needed help, but they treated me with respect and kindness. That meant a lot to me.”

To ensure more people can be helped with coats this year, Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center and Safe Place teamed up to collect donations to help the Coat Closet. Their coat drive pulled in 150 new and gently used coats, as well as monetary donations. Monica Sullivan, executive director of Care Net, said people are asking her if they have coats, requests that made her aware of a large community need.

“I knew we had to help, so I called Safe Place,” Sullivan said. “We worked together to collect the coats. We see many people at Care Net who need a little help, so having something like the Coat Closet in our community is a huge thing. People don’t realize there are so many, especially children, who don’t have coats for the winter.”

But Susan Graves, one of the Coat Closet’s coordinators said getting a coat is easy. People need only to call her or go through one of the school’s counselors, nurses or teachers. Often, the teachers will see a student who needs a coat and will make the contact to get the child one.

“We raise money to buy the coats, and, of course, we’re happy to accept donations,” Graves said. “People can donate donations at any time during the year.”

If you need a coat or want to help the Coat Closet, call Graves at 806-930-6429 or 806-935-5114. You also can take the coats to the kennel Graves operates at 6889 FM 722 on the west side of Dumas. The Coat Closet has coats for children and adults, and they can take a coat to someone if necessary.

“Everyone needs to stay warm during the winter,” Sullivan said. “The Coat Closet helps to make sure they are. I’m proud to know we have an organization like this. Susan is an incredible woman.”