October 23, 2021

Annual coat giveaway offers free winter apparel to those in need

Covered for the cold weather

Colin Spencer/ Staff Reporter

Cortland County Community Action Program Inc. family support specialist Michelle Zachary, left, and Rebels With a Cause volunteer Tina Watkins, right, help Alyssa Ladd, center, look for coats Saturday at Cortland’s Laura M. Burch Center in Suggett Park.

There’s more to winter clothes for people living on fixed incomes than one might expect, said Brandy Strauf, the family development director for Cortland County Community Action Program Inc.

“We find that families are making a choice of, ‘Do I get my family the coat, hat and gloves they need for winter or do I buy food for this month or do I pay the electric bill this month?’ So they’re making some difficult choices,” she said at Saturday’s coat giveaway at the Laura M. Burch Center at Suggett Park in Cortland.

About 165 people came to Saturday’s event, taking 335 items, Strauf said.

The annual giveaway, hosted by CAPCO, with help from the volunteer group Rebels With a Cause, included winter coats, hats, boots, mittens and snow pants.

The event began 10 years ago, Strauf said. It started when people would come to CAPCO ahead of winter, looking for cold-weather clothing. More than 400 items were given away last year to 200 people, Strauf said.

Across Cortland County, 14.7% of people live below the federal poverty threshold, but that number rises to 24.4% in the city of Cortland. By comparison, 14.6% of all Americans live in poverty.

“I think this event helps everybody in our community because not only is it an event where people can get things that they need, but it’s an opportunity for those who aren’t living in poverty to give back,” Strauf said.

Alyssa Ladd, 28, of Cortland, agreed.

“I think it’s great that there are so many donations and so many options for families to choose from,” Ladd said. “We can’t afford very much so it’s very helpful this event is going on.”

Ladd was looking for new coats for her children, Mason Condie, 7, and Zooey Condie, 5, to replace damaged coats from last year.

Having never been to the giveaway before, Ladd said there’s a good possibility she would go again next year.

“Everything we found works great for our family and we’re just grateful for the opportunity to come and look at things like this and be part of such a great community,” she said.