Coat give away to keep CHA children warm

An unemployed single parent, is grateful she no longer has to worry about her children staying warm outside this winter.

By Marti Parham,
Publication: Chicago Tribune
Date: Wednesday, October 21 2009
Priscilla O’Neal, an unemployed single parent, is grateful she no longer has to worry about her children staying warm outside this winter.

O’Neal recently signed up to receive free coats through a program for Chicago Public Housing residents.

“I think this is wonderful, especially right now with my circumstances. Financially, I’m kind of struggling,” said O’Neal, who has four children, ages 9 months to 9 years. “This means a lot to me.”

It’s the second year that the CHA and Operation Warm Inc., a nonprofit organization based out of Chadds Ford, Pa., have teamed up to distribute new winter coats to residents in public housing with children born after Jan. 1, 1995.

In order to receive a coat, residents must register online at Last year, 4,000 coats went to area children in need, officials said. This year, the program has 10,000 coats to give away.

“In Chicago it is absolutely essential that children have a warm coat during the winter as they travel to school or play outside,” said Kristen Hamer, CHA director of community relations. “Providing these coats for children in public housing will allow the limited financial resources in their household to go a little further.”

Kim Fortunato, president of Operation Warm, said it is important that the coats given away not have been used.

“We give new coats to the children because we believe it enhances their self-esteem,” Fortunato said.

The program, which operates in cities across the country, receives government funds as well as money from corporate and private donors. By year’s end, Fortunato said, Operation Warm will have distributed more than 600,000 new coats to children since the organization’s inception in 1998.

Coats in Chicago will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis to those who have pre-registered online. Any public housing residents without computer access can seek assistance from their CHA Family Works office, on-site property management office or resident leadership.

The coats will be distributed Saturday at the University of Illinois-Chicago Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Road. A service fair with nearly 40 area providers also will be held at that time to give away a limited number of family passes to the Chicago Children’s Museum, free home energy kits from ComEd, information on food assistance and programs from the Greater Chicago Food Depository and more.

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