WATERTOWN — As the cold winter months stretch on ahead of us, not everyone has access to the necessary clothing to adequately protect themselves against the elements.

Less than a week before Christmas, National Grid spread some holiday cheer to the Watertown City School District in the form of donated coats to keep students warm through the winter. In total, National Grid donated 54 coats Monday to Ohio Elementary, to be distributed to students in need.

Gwendolyn D. Sanders, community manager for National Grid for Central New York, Northern New York and the Mohawk Valley, had the idea to donate coats after driving by a school one day and seeing students walking in the cold wearing hoodies or jean jackets rather than proper winter coats. She went to her supervisor to ask if National Grid could pull together a coat drive to gather 50 or so coats, to which the supervisor not only said to go for it, but to do more if they could.

“It’s a project that we can do to give back to the community, especially during this time of need,” Ms. Sanders said.

The National Grid team did indeed collect more than 50 coats, gathering closer to 250 coats in total delivered in areas of need, from cities like Syracuse and Utica to Potsdam and now Watertown. Jerry J. Haenlin, community and customer manager with National Grid for Jefferson and Lewis counties, was dressed to the holiday nines in a festive suit and tie Monday as he helped his fellow National Grid member deliver the coats to the school district.

Quite literally giving the gift of warmth, dozens of students, boys and girls of all ages, will benefit from the donation to the district.

This is the first time National Grid has made a donation of coats to the school district, but district homeschool coordinator Craig A. Randall is hoping this is the start of another community partnership.

“There’s a giant need for these donations,” Mr. Randall said. “The more businesses that do show up like National Grid, it really does help our community grow and gives us a positive relationship with the families that might not otherwise reach out. It’s all a collaborative effort, so the more agencies that do stuff like this, it’s just better for everyone.”

Christine D. Sutton, another of the district’s homeschool coordinators, said the coats will be distributed throughout the district whenever they see the need.

“If a teacher or coordinators or the nurses or anybody sees that one of the kids need something like that, we usually try to find out a little bit more and we try to connect with home, too, to make sure it’s okay,” she said. “Sometimes we deliver it right to the home, but if the kid can wear it that day, then of course we’ll send it home with them that day. We try to make sure that they’re all covered.”

As the homeschool coordinators do a majority of the work in terms of setting students up with winter gear, Watertown City School District Superintendent Patricia B. LaBarr said they deserve all the accolades and kudos as the ones who will deploy the coats to those in need.

According to Mrs. LaBarr, as in years past, the district will soon receive another donation of coats from the Watertown Fire Department, which has 144 coats that should be coming in any day now, adding to the coats the district will be able to provide for students this winter.

“It’s incredible,” Mrs. LaBarr said of Monday’s coat donation. “I think it shows what a wonderful community we live in. They’re here literally spreading warmth to our students. And that’s really what the holiday season is all about, making sure that our kids are taken care of.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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