By Gary Collins
Pine Bluffs Post 

Coats for Kids brings needed warmth in the winter


Gary Collins/Pine Bluffs Post

Jim Lynch, founder of the charity Coats For Kids in Cheyenne poses with roughly 1000 coats that will be distributed to children at the Cheyenne Depot Museum this coming October.

A man, looking a little like Santa Claus, has been bringing warmth to students in the Laramie County School District (LCSD) for the past decade.

The man is Jim Lynch of Cheyenne, who began Coats for Kids 12 years ago when he saw there were children braving the winter cold without a warm coat. In the beginning, he would procure 'gently used' coats, have them dry cleaned and given them to those in need. Soon, he began contacting the schools, knowing that teachers and social workers there were better placed to assess the needs of children.

"I contacted a few of the schools, and a few of the school teachers said, 'Yeah we could use those," Lynch said.

Over time, as more people became aware of Lynch's efforts, donations in the form of money enabled Coats for Kids to purchase new coats to give away.

"I go out and beat people up for nickels and dimes and quarters. I get a lot of support locally." Lynch said. "Cut grants from both Walmart stores, Walmart distribution center. Local fellow here, Maury Brown, he donates to us. Frontier Days donates to us. It's just a wide and various assortment of people."

Initially, Lynch's operation focused on LCSD No. 1. With the growth of the charity, however, he decided to reach out to LCSD No. 2.

"We just took them in last year. We had twelve hundred coats, over twelve hundred coats, and I said, '...they got needy kids out there'."

Andria Cassel, social worker for Burns and Carpenter Elementary Schools and Emily Cosner social worker for Pine Bluffs and Albin Elementary was contacted last fall by Lynch.

"I was contacted by him, I think, in September," Cosner said.

In response, Cosner contacted teachers at her schools.

"I sent out an email to teachers and said, 'Are there any students that you can think of that might need a winter coat. They sent me back the information and we sent the information to him about how many we might need."

Cassel, on the other hand dealt with the parents of her students and based her assessment on their information.

"I just go by what the parents tell me," Cassel said.

There are 148 children enrolled in the Pine Bluffs Elementary School and Cosner took possession of about 60 coats form Lynch, seven of which were given out in Albin. Cassel received 17.

"I would say, 'Yes, there is definitely a need,' especially that time of year when parents are thinking about Christmas," Cosner said.

They received the coats last year at a time when many parents must consider the need for warm clothing for their children and the approach of Christmas. No parent wants to make the choice between the warmth and health of their children or the joy of Christmas. Coats for Kids obviated that decision.

"Yeah, yeah for sure. It was wonderful," Cosner said.

Coats for Kids has been operating out of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Public Relations Committee building.

"This building, last year, we gave 'em outside this building." Lynch said. "I had 22 clothing racks and fifty boxes of coats. Had the weather been inclement, you couldn't move in here, you couldn't go select a coat, you couldn't find it. We gave away 1221 coats last year in four hours and fifteen minutes."

For the 2017 give away, Lynch is moving operations to the Cheyenne Depot Museum.

"This year we're going to do it on the first Friday of October, which is the sixth.," Lynch said. "So I am dealing now with the Depot Museum. They've got a big area, the old waiting area for the trains and we're going to use that."

Both Cassel and Cosner will both participate next year.

"Oh, yes, if invited," Cassel said. "The kids are still wearing the coats, so I would say that they are well received."

Cosner echoed this sentiment.

"The kids were actually really excited. When we'd give them to them, they were very excited," Cosner said.


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