Many families in the Gallup area live in poverty, and with winter temperatures known to plunge below zero, a warm coat can bring great relief to children of low-income households. Two local groups – the Knights of Columbus and the Kiwanis Club – have teamed up to provide the needed coats.

Mary Ann Armijo has been running the Coats for Kids program for the Kiwanis Club since its inception two years ago. Already, she says, there is an increased community impact from the partnership between the two groups.

The collaboration began when two friends, Nate Haveman of the Kiwanis Club and Patrick Mason of the Knights of Columbus, realized how effective it would be to join forces. Armijo was brought in soon after.

“We contact all the schools and then they send us the names of the kids who need the coats, and this year we asked the Knights of Columbus to help,” said Armijo. “By ordering the coats through the Knights, we got a better price on them. They also helped us sort the coats into boxes and distribute them.”

Because of the reduced price, Armijo says the program was able to purchase 450 coats, a great increase from last year’s distribution of 300 coats.

Volunteers sort and carry boxes of new coats at the Knights of Columbus building in Gallup.

Volunteers sort and carry boxes of new coats at the Knights of Columbus building in Gallup.

The money to buy the coats was raised though an annual Elks Lodge event called “Hollywood Nights”, a Halloween party in which Elks Lodge members dress in costume and hold a raffle and silent auction. Haveman explains that many of the sponsoring Elks Lodge members are also Gallup business owners.

“The sponsors are really happy – they know they’re contributing to a good cause,” Haveman said.

After the money has been raised and the coats purchased, they are distributed all over town to elementary schools.

“We don’t give gently used coats,” Armijo explained. “All of our coats are brand new. Last year, some of the parents came to pick them up, and they were really excited. They were so happy to get this help.”

Armijo hopes that the partnership between the Knights and the Kiwanis Club will continue for future coat drives. She also wants to see the program expanded to more area schools, .

For now, however, the volunteers of these organizations seem happy, laughing and chatting with one another as they work to sort and deliver the coats, knowing that 450 children will have a warm winter because of their efforts.

To get involved in the coat drive or other local charity efforts, you can find the contact info for local organization here:

For the Knights of Columbus, visit https://www.kofc.org/findCouncil/index.action

For the Kiwanis Club, visit http://locator.kiwanis.org/FindAClub

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