Going Above and Beyond: Organizing a Coat Drive for Students at Smothers Elementary

DC K-3 literacy tutor Amanda Campbell lives out The Literacy Lab’s core values in her service at Smothers Elementary! This winter, Amanda noticed an opportunity to go above and beyond when she saw that not all of her students wore winter coats to school. Read her story about organizing a coat drive at Smothers Elementary below:

As Literacy Lab tutors, we go through extensive training preparing us for the task of helping each and every one of our students become a better reader. We learn how to redirect the student who confuses the “g” sound for the “j” sound every single day. We prepare for the students who can’t seem to sit still. We develop methods and techniques to handle these challenges. But what about the things that arise that aren’t part of our training?

Earlier this school year, as the weather began to change and the temperatures started to drop, I noticed that many of the students at my service site, Smothers Elementary, did not wear winter coats to school. Some students were layered with clothing thick enough to create a barrier between their clothes and the chill in the air, but no full winter coat. That was when the idea for Smothers Elementary Winter Coat Drive was born.

I drafted a post for Facebook and Twitter to inform my family and friends of my project, asking for new and used winter coats in all sizes. Despite a number of likes, shares, and retweets, the response that I received was underwhelming. I did receive one large trash bag filled with coats, but they were all men’s size large. I was so grateful for that donation, but there just wasn’t much I could do with those coats, so we donated them to another coat drive.

I realized that I needed to shift my approach. I needed assistance, so I turned to the community for help. I started using my lunch break to research organizations, churches, and community leaders that could possibly lend us a hand. Sending emails, making calls, and leaving voicemails had become a part of my daily routine when I came across an organization called Coats for Kids.

Coats for Kids is a DC-based organization that provides brand new winter coats to children, to “help improve self-confidence, peer acceptance, and overall wellness.” I reached out requesting about 70 coats, and sure enough, they responded. I sent back the sizes of each student that needed a coat and after several delays, due to snowy weather, the coats finally arrived at our door. Over the next couple of days, I delivered the coats and had the students try them on to make sure they were the perfect fit. Seeing the smiles on my students’ faces when they tried on a new coat was incredibly rewarding!


To learn more about the potential for impact in a year of service with The Literacy Lab, read about the results of our work on our website.