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Winter coat drive called big success

Hundreds of Buffalo residents who are unable to afford winter clothing will soon be warm, thanks to the generous hearts of Western New Yorkers.

About two weeks ago, a group of school officials, police officers, community leaders and students urged the public to donate gently used winter coats, gloves, mittens, hats, scarves and snow pants for its community coat drive to benefit low-income East Side residents.

Western New Yorkers answered the plea -- going above and beyond the call of duty.

"What a great community we have here," said Buffalo police Lt. Steven Nichols. "In the beginning we were a little short, but now we have tons of stuff. There's literally hundreds of coats, gloves and hats."

The clothing will benefit students and families from BUILD Academy, 340 Fougeron St., an inner-city East Side school near Genesee and Moselle streets. The remaining items will be distributed to low-income residents throughout the neighborhood.

This Thursday, students and families at BUILD Academy who are in need of winter clothing are invited to come to their school, where the warm clothing will be distributed between 3 to 4 p.m.

Buffalo residents in need of warm clothing are invited to come to the school from 4 to 6 p.m.

"A lot of people went out and bought new items, and we even had a bag of hand-knitted stuff," said Nichols. "A sorority from Canisius College, two fraternities from the University at Buffalo and a premed student association from UB all pitched in to help. There was a man who drove in from Lockport and delivered doubles of everything because he had twins. . . . And we had so many individual donations."

The coat drive was spearheaded by Anne Nichols, a reading coach at BUILD Academy and the police officer's wife, along with school Principal Cassandra Harrington and the pupils.

"I'm in awe and totally grateful," she said. "The students at Transit Middle School [in the Williamsville district] donated enough clothes to fill three vans. And Leonard Lane of the FATHERS organization was really out there in the community helping us."

She also praised Colvin Cleaners in Kenmore and Belvidere Cleaners & Shirt Launderers on South Park Avenue for dry-cleaning all the donated items, free of charge, because "without them I could never have done this."

The initiative also was assisted by the Buffalo Police Department, African-American Police Association, Stop the Violence Coalition, True Bethel Baptist Church, Kappa Delta Pi honor society and St. Leo Catholic School in Amherst.

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com

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