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Rotary Club coat donations warm winter blues

Rotary clubs donate 132 coats to children living in affordable-housing units
by: Jaime Valdez Jasmine Linder, 8, smiles as she puts on a new coat during “Operation Warm” at Greenburg Oaks apartments in Tigard. The coats were donated by the Tigard Rotary clubs to keep kids healthy and warm during the cold winter months.

TIGARD - Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but nearly 150 local children won't hate going out in the storm anymore thanks to a donation from the city's two rotary clubs.

On Friday, Nov. 17, members of the two Tigard Rotary clubs, the Tigard Noon Rotary and the Tigard Breakfast Rotary, handed out 132 winter coats to children at Greenburg Oaks apartments in Tigard and Olsen Woods apartments in Metzger, two low-income apartment complexes run by Community Partners for Affordable Housing.

It may not seem like much, but Noon Rotary club member Jay Gillbortson believes the coats will help the kids succeed in school and in life.

'We take (being warm) for granted,' he said. 'But some of the kids that came in to get a coat had T-shirts on. If you are going to get ahead and improve your lot in life, then you need a good education, and if you are home sick from being out in the cold that knocks that out,' he said. 'And if you are at school wearing sub-standard clothing, you are going to get made fun of all the time. I think a new coat does help self esteem.'

The Rotary clubs purchased the coats through a nationwide program called Operation Warm, a nonprofit dedicated to getting new, warm winter coats into the hands of underprivileged kids.

'We are the only Rotary club in Oregon doing Operation Warm right now,' Gillbortson said. 'It's neat to be leading the charge here for it.'

The organization sells new winter coats to groups at discounted prices to be distributed to those who need them.

Gillbortson, who distributed coats at both locations Friday, said that the coats really lifted the spirits of some of the children.

'There was one little girl, she was probably 5 years old, she came running back in and talked about how nice it felt and how warm it was,' he said. 'She just lit up. It was nice to know that you made somebody's day special.'

CPAH offers affordable housing and support to low-income families in Washington County and Southwest Portland.

'These children are from some of the poorest families in our community, with an average annual income close to $20,000,' said CPAH's resident services director, Shannon Wilson in a statement. 'To see these children receive new coats that will keep them snug all winter really warms my heart.'

This is the second year that the rotaries and CPAH have worked together to hand out Operation Warm jackets to children, but Gillbortson said that he plans on expanding the program in the future.

'There is a lot of need out there,' he said. 'CPAH is a natural choice to start, but there are a lot of kids scattered around that I'm sure school councilors know about, or other situations that maybe church groups know about…I anticipate doing it every year, don't see any reason why not.'