WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The walk to school for many Marcus Garvey Elementary School students has been a cold one, said their assistant principal.
But they’ll be much warmer this winter, thanks to a large donation.
Nearly 100 percent of the school’s students live below the poverty line, said assistant principal Sabrina Anderson, so purchasing a warm coat hasn’t always been possible for many of the parents.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool joined Wells Fargo volunteers in distributing the new coats to 260 students Monday at the school, 10309 S. Morgan St. This marks the eighth year of the Wells Fargo Coats for Kids Campaign. Garvey Elementary will be just one of 11 CPS elementary schools to receive coats over the next week.
Wells Fargo has been distributing coats for eight years, but this is the fourth year they have partnered with the nonprofit Operation Warm. Approximately 10,000 coats will be distributed to students this year as part of this ongoing collaboration, said Wells Fargo officials.
[Photo by Andrea V. Watson]
Anderson said she’s excited that her school was selected for the first time this year because there is a huge need. The majority of her students walk to school, she said.
“I’m thankful that Garvey was given this opportunity,” she said. “It’s one less thing that parents have to worry about.”
The children lined up in the hall before marching into the auditorium where volunteers, including Claypool, helped them select and try on the coats.
Second graders Jonathan Jeffries, 8, and Xzavier Grant, 7, chose matching green coats.
“I like it,” Xzavier said, adding that it was better than his old coat.
[Rich Lalley, development director for Operation Warm, left, Jonathan Jeffries, center, and Xzavier Grant, right. Photo/Andrea V. Watson]
Other students pointed at coats they liked. Some shouted out their favorite colors to the volunteers. The children smiled and laughed when a coat was too big or too tight.
Claypool assisted and asked some of the students which coat they liked better.
“This is fun,” he said. “It’s just in time for winter.”
In its first year, Wells Fargo distributed 600 coats at one school, said Carter Wellford, a local bank branch manager. Now in its eighth year, the Chicago district will distribute 10,000, he said.
“We believe in supporting a community where our customers and our team members work and live,” Wellford said. “Communities are only as strong as the children who are going to power the future of that community, but if you can’t get to school safely during Chicago’s winters, then the community suffers.”
Rich Lalley, development director for Operation Warm, said that this is about more than a coat.
“With the proper clothing a child can get to school on a cold winter day,” he said. “What they really get is hope, knowing that someone cares about them who’s not from their community.”