First giveaway of winter clothing items is Saturday, Nov. 5
For half of the 40 years Paul Billoni has operated his family's 85-years-young Colvin Cleaners, his team has collected, cleaned, sorted and distributed - for free - nearly 75,000 winter coats to children in need throughout Western New York.
What began as a small promotion with the Neighborhood Drycleaners Association and St. Vincent DePaul has now expanded, and Billoni has taken his campaign to greater heights. But he is extremely concerned today, because the warm fall weather Western New Yorkers have enjoyed has not had people thinking about winter coats, thus resulting in fewer donations.
"Unfortunately, the need is always great for so many families who just cannot afford a warm, winter coat for their kids," said Billoni, who has turned his campaign into a year-round effort through partnerships with drop-off locations at Larkin Square, Merchants Insurance, Rich Products Corp., The Boulevard Mall, UPD Dental and many local schools and churches. Those entities have collected from employees, students and congregation members to gather garments for the "Coats for Kids" campaign.
"I know the Buffalove of our great neighbors will come through again for this much-needed program," Billoni said. He is president of Colvin Cleaners, which now employs 55. "It is all so worthwhile when the families come in and go through the racks of coats or pick out a pair of gloves that will keep them warm this winter. When they smile and say 'Thank you.' It puts tears in your eyes."
Billoni said the program's growth is a result of what he was taught by his parents, Tony and Jo Billoni.
"Our staff goes out of its way to clean and sort these coats by size, because they know how appreciative the families are," Billoni said. "Our parents showed by example the importance of helping others in need, and this program follows the Colvin Cleaners mission of 'Caring for Your Cloths.' "
The first giveaway of the 21st annual campaign will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in the Colvin Cleaners Distribution Center, 2365 Elmwood Ave., between Mang and LaSalle streets in the Village of Kenmore. Colvin Cleaners collects suitable, warm winter jackets for toddlers to young adults, and hats, scarves and gloves for families in need. Donations can be made at Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood or at any of the four Dash's Markets.
Any family that needs winter coats may show up on Saturday. All they need to enter is their benefits card.
There will be a limit of one coat per person. A second distribution will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at True Bethel Baptist Church, 907 E. Ferry St., Buffalo.