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Another Voice: Donate coats now to help protect those at risk

By Beth W. Amodio

Winter cold and snow has arrived early this year – and for many Buffalonians, the onset of cold weather poses an ominous threat to their fragile finances and their health.

Almost half of Buffalo’s children live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and families throughout the region struggle to make ends meet. The need for warmer clothing, combined with increased utility costs, makes the winter months more expensive, straining their already-strapped budgets.

The winter cold also takes a toll on their bodies. Cold weather forces the body to work harder, putting stress on the heart to help the body stay warm. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable.

Something that many of us take for granted, the warmth of a good winter coat, can often be out of reach.

As the chief executive of an organization that collects and provides free coats to those in need, I am inspired by those who help their neighbors stay warm and safe each winter.

Each year, volunteers throughout the Buffalo region organize coat drives. They are among a nationwide army of volunteers who have helped to provide warm coats to more than 6 million people over the past 27 years.

Of course, we are not alone in helping those who need it most. Nonprofits across the region offer housing, heating assistance, clothes, food and medical care to our most at-risk citizens.

There is, however, an untold story about this generosity: Much of it comes too late to have its greatest impact.

Three out of every $10 given to charity comes each December. Because of this, many smaller charities are low on critical funding.

Thankfully, the solution to this problem is simple: Give now rather than later. That’s why we’re encouraging those who are planning to support nonprofits at the end of the year to take action now. There are a number of ways you can help.

You can contribute to the Neighbor for Neighbor Fund to help ensure that those in need do not have to sacrifice staying warm because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

You can give to Buffalo nonprofits that provide housing, food, and clothes to those who are without homes or who are struggling to afford other basic necessities.

You can also host or take part in one of our coat drives. We work with a local network of nonprofits to deliver every coat collected to someone who needs it.

Ultimately, I hope you’ll think differently about your charitable giving patterns and consider giving earlier to help ensure that those who need help are able to stay warm, safe, and healthy through the long winter ahead.

Beth W. Amodio is president and chief executive officer of One Warm Coat, a national nonprofit that collects and provides free coats to those in need.

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