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Donated coats mean warmer winter for many area families

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Waiting in line for nearly four hours didn’t bother a Greenwood family in need of new coats.

Hundreds of people show up every year to get free coats at Operation Bundle Up, an event organized by United Way of Johnson County, and Terri Thorpe knew she and her adult daughters needed to get there early to pick out coats for Thorpe’s grandchildren.

This year, 266 families received 839 donated coats at the event, United Way director Nancy Plake said.

Last year, the organization gave away about 1,500 coats to 294 families.

At a glance

Coats that are not given away at the event will be taken to Cub’s Closet in Franklin, Lord’s Locker in Trafalgar and In His Name ministry at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood.

Families that were not able to make it to the event should call those organizations to see when they can come by to pick up coats.

The organization limited the number of coats to one per child this year to make sure everyone who attended the event got a coat in the right size. Last year, families were allowed to take two coats per child for the first hour before the organization limited it to one coat each.

Thorpe’s family has attended Operation Bundle Up since it was started in 2002.

She used to take her daughters to get coats there when they were younger, but now she takes them to the event to get coats for their children.

Thorpe and her husband, who is disabled, do not work, and Thorpe said the family needs the $250 they would have to spend on new coats to pay bills and other expenses, such as her youngest daughter’s college tuition.

Before the event, Thorpe and her family stood at the front of a line that wrapped from the front door at Franklin Church of Christ to the end of the building.

“It’s usually like this or worse,” Thorpe said. “You don’t know who’s going to be here.”

Inside the church, Franklin resident Michaela Wooten reminded her daughter, Kyla Taylor, that she could take only one coat as the 6-year-old tried on coats between the racks.

“But I want two,” Taylor told her mother.

Wooten and her daughter have attended the event three times.

A new coat for Taylor costs about $30, money Wooten needs to spend on gas to get to and from class in Columbus twice a week.

Wooten is a full-time student and works full time. Her daughter needs to have a coat, but she also needs to pay for rent and groceries, she said.

Franklin resident Brittney Browning brought her two sons to get coats at the event for the first time. She had just bought her 5-year-old son Cody a new coat, but it was thrown on a fire accidentally a few weeks ago at a family picnic, and she couldn’t afford to buy another new one.

In previous years, Browning and her husband have donated their family’s old coats to the event. Now that the family cannot buy new coats themselves, Browning said they appreciate other people donating coats.

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