The 22nd annual Colvin Cleaners Coats 4 Kids Program, sponsored by The Allstate Foundation and Fidelis Care and supported by NEWS 4 Buffalo and KISS 98.5 with Janet Snyder, distributed a record 13,350 winter coats, along with hats, gloves and scarves for local children in need, according to Paul A. Billoni, President and CEO of Colvin Cleaners, Inc. Since its inception, Colvin Cleaners has distributed nearly 95,000 coats through its Coats 4 Kids Program.
Coats 4 Kids distributed 5,350 coats in 2016, which was a record then.
The announcement was made on Dec. 21 with Bishop Darius G. Pridgeon, Pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church, at the church on East Ferry Street as Billoni donated more than 1,000 coats and winter items to the church’s coat and clothing ministry. Earlier that day a similar number of coats were donated to the clothing pantry at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, located at 325 Walden Avenue in the poorest section of Buffalo.
“We extend a heartfelt thank you to the generosity of Western New Yorkers who donated so many coats, hats, gloves and scarves this year, especially when our donations were so low at the start of this campaign because of the unusually warm fall,” Billoni said. “We also saw an unprecedented need in winter coats from so many places in our community and it has been extremely gratifying to provide them with coats for our severe winter months.
“We thank our sponsors, The Allstate Foundation and Fidelis Care and our media sponsors, News 4 Buffalo, WIVB and CW23 WNLO and KISS 98.5 with Janet Snyder for their amazing coverage and support. They truly helped put us over the top in a year when we need more coats than ever,” Billoni added.
The employees of New Era Cap donated more than 1,500 wool caps for the kids. Cash donations made by the Per Niente Club, Frey Electric, Market in the Square and the Kenmore Lion’s Club were used to purchase new coats at Park Avenue Coat Company, which provided kids coats at an extremely reasonable price.
For the first time, Coats 4 Kids held three public distributions the past two months at True Bethel Baptist Church, Colvin Cleaners in Kenmore and the Knights of Columbus in Hamburg. Nearly 6,000 coats were distributed during those events.
The remainder of the coats were donated to these local organizations:
EPIC (Every Person Influences Children), Big Brother Big Sister, Restoration Society, Inc., Holy Cross Church, Calvary Baptist Church, St. Rose of Lima Church, Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network, Olmstead School #64, School #53, True Bethel Baptist Church, Hearts for the Homeless, St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, the International Institute of Buffalo and F.A.T.H.E.R.S. (Fathers Armed Together to Help, Educate, Restore and Save), all of Buffalo; Bethesda Full Gospel Church, Ken-Ton Closet, Ben Franklin and Holmes Elementary of Tonawanda.
In addition, Colvin Cleaners provided more than 200 coats and winter items to families relocated here from Puerto Rico, due to Hurricane Maria through the Hispanic Heritage Council.
Throughout the year, Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore, collects new or gently used warm winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves for anyone from toddlers to young adults for families in need. The items are cleaned at no cost to the program and organized by size for distribution by the Colvin Cleaners staff and many volunteers.
More than 50 companies, churches, organizations and schools collected coats for this year’s program. They include: 40 Allstate Insurance Agencies throughout WNY, Better Business Bureau of WNY, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Catholic Academy of West Buffalo, Canisius High School, Cardinal O’Hara High School, Collision Masters, Erie Niagara Insurance Assn., Fidelis Care, Fitness Factory, Kenmore West High School, Lawley Insurance, Mount Saint Mary’s Academy, Merchants Insurance, Native Pride Truck Plaza, New Era Cap, Northtown Automotive, Paddock Chevrolet, Park Avenue Coat Company, Paula’s Donuts, Rich Products Corp., St. Andrew’s Country Day School, Tri Main Building, True Bethel Baptist Church, Uniland Development, UNYTS, UPD Dental Associates the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps, The Sullivan’s Division and the Willowridge Girl Scouts.
This year, NEWS 4 Buffalo sponsored an extremely successful Coats 4 Kids “Live Drive” during its morning and afternoon newscasts on November 28. Melanie Orlins, co-anchor of News 4 Wake Up was live from 4:00-9:00 a.m. at Russell’s Steaks Chops & More in Williamsville and Christy Kern, anchor of News 4 at 4 was live at Market in tm nhe Square in the Southgate Plaza, West Seneca. News 4 Reporter Rachele Mongiovi gave live reports of the drive during the noon, 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
There were live reports throughout the newscasts with interviews of a wide range of donors, including Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, Erie County Clerk Michael “Mickey” Kearns and J.C. Seneca, who owns Native Pride Truck Plaza and who collected a pickup truck full of coats and winter items. KISS 98.5’s Janet Snyder supported the effort with live interviews and STAR 102.5 and WBEN ran announcements and stories throughout the day as did WECK Radio and WBBZ-TV. The efforts resulted in 5,800 coats being collected that day.
“We were absolutely overwhelmed by the response of the generous viewers of NEWS 4 Buffalo. From the time we began until we left to go home at 7 p.m. there was a steady stream of people with enough donations to completely fill three large Colvin Cleaners’ trucks. It was a true show of Buffalove and a great way to celebrate the holiday season by providing warm coats, gloves, hats and scarves to local families in need,” explained Christopher A. Billoni, Vice President of Colvin Cleaners.
His dad, Paul, added: “This campaign is so important to our community and our staff at Colvin Cleaners. These are lessons my parents, Jo and Tony Billoni taught us as we grew up and for the past 22 years we have found it to be extremely worthwhile for all of us to assist families in selecting a coat or gloves to keep them warm this winter. This is a vital, basic need we are providing them and our goal has always been to make sure every child in need stays warm during winter. When they find that special coat and smile and say thank you to us, it puts tears in your eyes.”
For more information on Colvin Cleaners, visit www.colvincleaners.com.
Lead images: Paul A. Billoni, President & CEO of Colvin Cleaners with Elder Cameron Boyd after donating 1,000 coats to True Bethel Baptist Church’s coat ministry today | Reporter Melanie Orlins of NEWS 4 Wake Up interviews Russell J. Salvatore of Russell’s Steaks Chops & More, and Paul A. Billoni, President and CEO of Colvin Cleaners, in back of Colvin Cleaners truck after the Coats 4 Kids Live Drive collected nearly 6,000 coats