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Students Collect Gear to Keep Families Warm this Winter

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  We've already gotten a taste of why winter gear is needed for anyone living in Iowa, but not everyone has the clothes to keep them warm. The Winter Warmth Drive is an effort that has been helping area families for 10 years.

It seems so simple. Third grade student Sophie Shepherd said, "We are collecting winter gear for people who don't have any."

"We search our closets and basements for clothes that don't fit us to donate to our schools," added Ryan Nguyen.

But the coats, scarves, and gloves the students collect will mean the world to those who get them. Third grader Josiah Van Leeuwen said, "It's really important to have them in this weather."

Students at Waukee's Maple Grove Elementary School are participating in the Winter Warmth Drive. The third graders take turns sorting the items and spreading the word. Sophie said, "We've been having people go to other classrooms and be saying these speeches to collect more stuff for everyone."

Maple Grove Elementary School was the first to participate in the drive, which started around the same time these third graders were born. Teacher Meggan Jones said, "It's crazy to believe it's been 10 years already."

In 2008, Tim Gaynor contacted Jones, who was his son’s teacher, about collecting gently-used coats and gear. Now, students at 27 schools organize drives. Gaynor said, "This year we need about 12,000 items. We've had over 12,000 items requested from us this year, from the agencies and schools we work with."

These agencies include the Des Moines field office for the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which needs 500 sets of winter gear. Director Carly Ross said, "The majority of new refugees to the state of Iowa are stepping off the plane to the Des Moines airport wearing flip flops and really light clothes because the countries they're coming from tend to be warmer regions."

So far, Mrs. Jones' class has collected 50 items. Sophie said, "And if you collect the most, you get a free extra recess."

You can help collect cold weather gear. The Winter Warmth Drive will hold a Fill the Truck event on Wednesday and Thursday. You can drop off items from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at any metro Chick-fil-A restaurant. The two items needed most are snow pants and snow boots.

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