Amid the usual after-school flurry of busy students and car-pooling parents Wednesday, a half-dozen St. Mary's School students were collecting winter coats.
They organized a coat collection drive after learning that the annual "Coats For Kids" donation barrels were empty, and needy children were facing a cold winter.
"It's a really great project and I was kind of sad when I found out there was a shortage this year and that there would be kids without coats," said Megan Gibson, 14, who worked with her mom, Danna Gibson, sorting and bundling donated coats during previous collection drives.
Just a week ago, the annual campaign sponsored by KDRV Channel 12 had collected just 2,200 of the 3,500 coats requested by schools.
To spread the word, Megan said she sent a school-wide e-mail pleading for gently used, unneeded coats — and even offered to provide curbside pickup.
Students collected six bags of coats and cash donations to buy more. Parents filled another three bags. Megan said turnout was better than expected.
"We got way more than I thought we would," she said. "Our goal was 200 so. Before school, I was worried we wouldn't get as many as we needed to, but I think we're going to make our goal."
Nikki O'Sullivan of Ashland dropped off coats when she picked up a load of St. Mary's students.
"It's important to help people keep warm because we don't want to see children shivering and without a coat."
Christi Farthing of Jacksonville provided a half-dozen previously loved coats.
"It's a pretty basic need and we always have extra coats, so there's no reason not to help out," she said, "and this is nice and convenient — we don't even have to get out."
Jo-C Whipple didn't let her crutches stop her from helping.
"I think it's good that we're helping out and trying to do what we can to get more coats for people who need them," she said, "but it's sad they don't already have as many as they need to give out."
News reports that the collection effort had faltered generated an amazing response, said Susanne Robertson, business administrator for Windermere Van Vleet & Associates Inc. real estate in Medford, one of several local companies that sponsor the program.
In addition to the collection at St. Mary's, Robertson said her office has been flooded with coats and that previously empty donation barrels were "overflowing." She said a former Rogue Valley resident who now lives in Louisiana shipped several boxes of coats to Robertson.
"There are so many wonderful stories," she said. "The response has been insane.
"The drop off barrels at Bi-Mart, Fred Meyer (and other stores) have just been avalanched," she said. "Basically the community saw the need and they stepped up to the plate."
Coats can be donated at area Bi-Mart, Rite-Aid and Fred Meyer locations through Friday. Donations also can be made at KDRV Channel 12 or Windermere Van Vleet offices. For a complete list of drop sites, see www.kdrv.com/page/49858 or contact Channel 12 at 773-1212.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.