Efforts under way for Coats 4 Kidz

by Rita Howell

After distributing 731 new coats last year to needy children in Panola and five other North Mississippi counties, Linda Keys has a new goal for 2017: “double it.”
Keys, founder of Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz, has a willing partner in Batesville businessman Norm Cote, who helped with last
year’s efforts, enlisting the Batesville Civitan Club as a sponsor. Keys has upped the anti this year by expanding her service area to include six more North Mississippi counties. Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz, a 501c3 foundation, was established in 2015 when Keys, newly arrived back in her native Marks after a career with Ford Motor Company in St. Louis, encountered a group of schoolchildren awaiting their bus on a cold day–with
no coats. “I just wasn’t used to seeing that” Keys told The
Panolian last year. She was so disturbed that she went out and bought five coats and took them to the children the next morning.With no prior experience in organizing and operating
a nonprofit, Keys founded Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz with the goal of supplying new coats for needy children in all 82 counties. “I decided I wanted to give new coats, to provide the children with a sense of worth,” she explained. For the first year’s distribution, Keys got help from a network of volunteers,
charitable groups, and school personnel. A coat collection drive
was held during a South Panola High School football game last year, and other local groups and individuals contributed cash donations or brought new coats. Keys relied on teachers
to help her identify children who needed coats. Already this year Keys has been awarded grants from Walmart, Pride Hyundai, the Northwest Mississippi Community Foundation,
Entergy, and the Delta Regional Authority. Even as the August heat makes wintertime seem far away, she has acquired 300
new coats. What she needs are supporters who will contribute
donations of money or new coats as she expands her area of service. New coats can be dropped off at Norm Cote’s business, Mississippi Detective Agency, Eureka St., at the entrance of the Public Square in Batesville. Cote will also accept donations to Mississippi Coats for Kidz, or contributions can be mailed to the organization at 428 Highway 6 East, #184, Batesville, MS
38606, or dropped off for the Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz account
at First Security Bank in Batesville. Donations are tax-deductible. Keys emphasizes that she also needs volunteers to help in the distribution when dates and times are arranged.
Anyone who would like to volunteer may call Keys at 314-749-6011. Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz is attempting to serve needy children in Panola, Quitman, Lafayette, Tate, Coahoma,
Tunica, Lefl ore, Tallahatchie, Tippah, Calhoun, Grenada and Yalobusha Counties.

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