By Michael J. Billoni
Senior Contributing Writer
With an influx of refugees into Western New York and the economic challenges faced by many families, Colvin Cleaners has seen a much-earlier increase in calls for coats this year as it prepares for its annual “Coats 4 Kids” “Live Drives” to collect much-needed, gently used, or new winter coats, jackets, gloves, hats and scarves for toddlers to young adults and families in need this winter season.
Anyone can drive up and drop off their donations outside Market in the Square, 940 Union Road, West Seneca, on Nov. 1; or on Nov. 2, outside Russell’s Steaks Chops & More, 6675 Transit Road, Williamsville. Both events will be held from 4-6:30 p.m. and will be supported by WIVB-TV Channel 4.
Donations for the 28th annual “Coats 4 Kids” program, supported by The Allstate Foundation, can also be made at Colvin Cleaners, 2375 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; many local Allstate Insurance agencies; and two Reeds Jenss locations. For a complete listing and addresses of all locations, visit www.coatsforkidswny.com. Colvin Cleaners’ customers who use the free pick-up and delivery service for dry cleaning or laundry, can have their donations picked up right from their homes. Sign up at www.colvincleaners.com.
"We are not asking for the shirt off your back. We're just hoping for the coats in the back of your closet," explained Christopher P. Billoni, vice president of the family-owned 92-years-young Colvin Cleaners. “Western New York is an extremely generous community, and we remain confident donations will increase as we head into November.”
“We know from the recent communication we have had with families the need for warm winter coats continues to grow,” continued the third-generation member of the family business. “More than ever, we need people to donate new or gently used coats, jackets, gloves, hats and scarves.
“The ‘Live Drives’ are vital to the success of our annual distribution to local agencies and, through the generosity of our neighbors, we will be able to supply coats to all families who otherwise could not afford them. We all know how cold it gets here in WNY, so we need to make sure everyone can stay warm.”
Colvin Cleaners changed the format of its annual distribution of coats and winter accessories three years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than hosting a large gathering of people at a specific location, the company now works with many nonprofit agencies throughout Western New York for them to distribute coats, hats, scarves, gloves and boots to families in need.
Paul A. Billoni, president and CEO of Colvin Cleaners, said, “With the support of the Allstate Foundation, and Reeds Jenss, we now have more than 40 donation locations throughout WNY, which makes it very convenient for people to donate new or gently used coats, jackets, gloves, hats and scarves. With their support, we will be able to supply coats to all families who otherwise could not afford them.”
Over the past 27 years, Colvin Cleaners collected, cleaned, sorted and distributed – for free – 195,017 coats to children and families in need.
Paul Billoni explained the growth and success of this much-needed program each winter is simply a result of the lessons taught by his parents, Anthony, and Josephine Billoni, when he joined the business nearly 50 years ago.
“Our parents showed, by example, the importance of helping others in need, and this program follows the Colvin Cleaners mission of ‘Caring for Your Clothes,’ ” he said. “Our staff also goes out of its way to clean and sort the coats by size, because they know how appreciative these families are when they find a coat they otherwise could not afford.
“For our family and team at Colvin Cleaners, it is all worthwhile when we see kids and parents go through the racks of coats or pick out a pair of gloves that will keep them warm this winter. When they smile or say ‘Thank you,’ it puts tears in your eyes.”