District 623 Coat Closet brims, though winter will continue

The Roseville Area Schools Coat Closet as seen in October. (courtesy of Roseville Area Schools)

In mid-January, Roseville Area School's Coat Closet was a bit more full. (courtesy of Roseville Area Schools)

Even as the winter weather moderates after last week's sub-zero temperatures, seasoned Minnesotans know the chills can last long past the March 20 spring equinox.

Roseville Area Schools District 623 understands the sting of winter as well, and that's why RAS collects coats and other cold-weather apparel in its Coat Closet each year.

Through middle-January, it's been a good season at the coat closet.

"I'd say it was a successful year — I'd say we got 340-350 coats in," says Becky Sorlien, a secretary at Fairview Community Center, which houses the Coat Closet. Sorlien accepts donations at the center and puts the word out about it.

Donors have included Rosedale Center — which has a couple collection boxes — as well as JCPenney and lots of individuals. Sorlien says a handful of women even knitted hats, mittens and scarves to be donated to the project.

"That's been really fun, too," she adds.

The closet has been in operation for more than 10 years, Sorlien says, explaining it's moved around from "crammed closets" to a more spacious room, as the requests for warm clothing has grown over the years.

"The people in need in our community may be attending Roseville Area Schools or a program in the district," including adult programs, Sorlien says, adding that both students and parents may approach teachers or staff when they can't afford adequate winter gear. She says the Coat Closet also serves Roseville's immigrant population.

Sorlien estimates that the largest single donation she's seen this year was probably 80 coats at once, but says the closet thrives on all donations, big and small.

"Individuals bring in things," she says. "I was cleaning out my closet and found some things — then there are organizations and coat drives. The Coat Closet has definitely worked because the community supports us, it's been wonderful."

Even with its mid-winter success, the Coat Closet will gladly continue to accept donations, Sorlien says.

"I'd say there's always a need  — we'll always thank people for gently used coats," she says. "They just come and go so fast."

Coat Closet donations, such as coats, boots, snowpants, hats, gloves and scarves, can be dropped off at Fairview Community Center, 1910 County Road B W., in Roseville; at Roseville Area Schools District Center at 1251 County Road B2 W., in Roseville; or any District 623 school.

—Mike Munzenrider

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