Concord Elementary Coats for Kids

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Around Town: Coats for Kids shows how warm Carrick can be

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

By Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Maybe you're stopped at a light. You look out the window and see a little kid walking to school without a proper winter coat.

That's a shame, you say. Then you drive on and forget about it.

There are at least 10 children with new coats, gloves and caps at Concord Elementary School because a lot of good people in Carrick didn't just forget about it.

"It was just an idea of ours," Lisa Ray explained when I asked how she and her husband, Tim, got the Concord Coats for Kids program rolling.

"We'd seen a lot of kids who didn't have jackets, and it was cold. And we know a lot of parents in the neighborhood are getting laid off and losing their jobs."

The Rays have a 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, and a 9-year-old son, Justin, and Mr. Ray is a regular attendee of the Parent School Community Council. He made a pitch there last fall, was encouraged to pursue his idea, and then went out to neighborhood merchants who started writing checks to the PTA.

Meantime, teachers were asked to take notice of who might not have a winter coat. Diane Dwulit, the school counselor, called the parents to see if they might need a children's coat.

"One family said no because of pride," Ms. Dwulit said, but the others were grateful.

So the Rays were told the sizes, color preferences and the gender -- no names -- and made a shopping trip Downtown to the Burlington Coat Factory late in November.

"I knew it was helping somebody so it made me feel good," Mrs. Ray said. "I wasn't going to get them something I wouldn't put my own kids in."

When the children got their coats, gloves and matching hats and assembled for a photograph -- "you never saw such smiles on these kids' faces," said Susan Barie, the Concord principal.

"It's amazing," Ms. Dwulit said of the donations. "This is not a wealthy community."

Yet such generosity is nothing new for this school community. This is a school of just 310 students, kindergarten through fifth grade, where 70 percent of the families are poor enough to qualify for a free or reduced-priced lunch. Yet when a boy lost his home in a fire a while back, the school raised $1,200 in two days.

Darlene Rigby, a single mother of two who is taking courses in the security and investigation program at the Academy of Court Reporting & Technology Downtown, said the coats were a wonderful gift for her son Jordan, 10, and daughter Sahhra, 9.

"They loved them," Ms. Rigby said of their new winter wear. "They were real nice and we're real thankful. Kids grow so fast."

The Rays hope to expand the program to help the elderly at some point. For now, checks payable to Concord PTA (with "Coats for Kids" on the memo line) may be sent to Pittsburgh Concord K-5, Attn: PTA, 2350 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210.

Brian O'Neill: or 412-263-1947. More articles by this author

First published on February 9, 2010 at 12:00 am

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