As a result of United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties’ 2021 Warmest Wishes Coat Drive, over 3,500 local preschool, elementary and middle school students in need have a new coat to keep them warm during the frigid winter months.

Despite another difficult year, 134 local organizations and individuals generously donated 3,518 brand-new coats to United Way – making it the organization’s most successful Warmest Wishes Coat Drive to date. Over 4,200 winter outerwear and holiday items were also distributed to children in 35 schools throughout our region. United Way would especially like to thank Operation Warm Up Jersey Shore and its funding partners for their donation of 1,000 coats to the Warmest Wishes Coat Drive.

United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties began the coat drive in 2012 when the organization switched gears from holiday gift donations in order to fill a gap in services that our community had recognized. Nine years later, United Way has supplied our community with nearly 13,000 new coats.

“One of the things that United Way does very well is listen to our community and identify needs that aren’t being met,” said Lori-Anne McLane, President & CEO of United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. “In speaking with our local school partners, we learned that one of their top needs was new winter coats, especially in the districts with many students who walk or ride their bikes to school.”

With the mask mandate still in effect for all students in preschool through 12th grade, school administrators have also expressed the importance of warm coats for recess and outdoor learning activities that allow students to have mask breaks throughout the day in the winter. As more families are experiencing financial difficulty during the ongoing pandemic, the need for basic essentials such as coats has continued to increase.

"Families were already struggling to pay utility bills and stay warm, and the Covid-19 pandemic has created extra stressors in life,” said Kari Schmidt, Guidance Counselor for the Freehold Learning Center. “All of these factors combined makes the need for coats greater than ever. United Way’s Warmest Wishes Coat Drive supports our students and families and makes a real difference in the lives of others."

For more information about how to participate in the next Warmest Wishes Coat Drive or the variety of donation drives that United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties has to offer, please contact Toni Pitts at tpitts@uwmoc.org.