The reception area in the Community Health Center of Fort Dodge hardly looked like a place where someone would wait to see a doctor or dentist Saturday morning.
The chairs were pushed to the sides and in their place were big containers full of coats and other winter wear. Volunteers were pulling coats out of the big containers and placing them in plastic bags, which other volunteers, well bundled up in their own coats, took outside and gave to people waiting in cars.
Hundreds of coats, plus lots of hats, scarves, mittens and gloves, were distributed to families in need of them in three hours Saturday morning during the 2022 edition of Coats for Kids.
“It’s cool to see their faces light up when they get a coat,” said Myles Summers, one of the volunteers who was delivering loaded bags of winter clothing to families waiting in their vehicles in front of the Health Center at 126 N. 10th St.
Summers, 12, has been volunteering with Coats for Kids since he was 8. He was there with his mother, Karisha Eggers, who is a nurse at the Health Center. Eggers is bilingual and was working with the Spanish-speaking families who came in search of winter clothing.
Summers, Eggers and other volunteers were going in and out of the Health Center frequently to serve the large number of people who awaited them.
When the coat distribution began at 9 a.m., the line of vehicles began on First Avenue North, wrapped around the corner to North Ninth Street, then went around another corner onto Second Avenue North before finally ending up at the Health Center on North 10th Street.
Exactly how many items were distributed during this year’s Coats for Kids won’t be known for awhile.
The volunteers working Saturday morning weren’t focused on the numbers, however. They were simply focused on getting warm clothing out to people who need it.
According to 12-year-old Emma Miller, the most rewarding part of the effort was “just knowing that people are getting their coats and what they need for winter.”
She was loading bags to be taken out to the families. Her stepmother, Colleen Miller, was presiding over the boxes of gloves, mittens, hats and boots.
“I just love to be able to give back to the community members and make sure the kids are staying warm during the winter season,” said Miller, who is the health center’s chief operating officer.
Jan Remsburg, a care coordinator at the Health Center, said she sees the need for Coats for Kids firsthand when young people come in for an appointment who aren’t wearing proper winter attire.
“I like helping the kids,” she said. “I just enjoy helping the community that I work in.”
Remsburg said that over the past two weeks she spent her lunch hours sorting coats, mittens and hats for Saturday’s distribution.
That distribution was a drive-up operation. Volunteers greeted people in their vehicles and filled out a short form indicating what kinds of clothes and sizes each family needed. The forms were brought into the Health Center and handed off to other volunteers who filled bags with the items indicated on the paper. Those bags were then delivered to the families still sitting in their vehicles.
Coats for Kids switched to this drive-up method during the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizers quickly realized it was a lot more efficient than having people come into the center to look through stacks of coats.
Coats for Kids was started 12 years ago by Lisa Shimkat and Ed Shimkat Jr. Lisa Shimkat, a member of the Fort Dodge Community School District Board of Education, had noticed how many school students needed good winter clothing. The effort was conducted by Shimkat Motor Co. for several years. Because of the program’s growth, the car dealership joined forces with the Health Center to conduct it.
Shimkat Motor Co. remains the primary drop-off location for coats and other items being donated to the effort. This year Mineral City Mill & Grill and Papa Murphy’s also accepted donations.
The Community Health Center handles the distribution of the clothing.