Oak Harbor High School students gather 300 coats to warm the needy

Approximately 300 coats filled the hallway at Oak Harbor High School, the product of ninth-grade students’ hard work for the Islands Programs’ coat drive in association with the Kiwanis Club of Oak Harbor.

Forty-nine of those coats were donated by the Still family.

“That’s probably 10 times more coats than I think we thought we’d get,” said ninth-grade counselor Jeremy Day.

Laughter and the rustle of coats filled the hall, along with nearly 20 students, plus parents and staff, who volunteered their time to sort the coats by cleanliness and size Thursday.

When Elise Still, 14, heard about the coat drive, she got right to work asking family and friends to donate coats they weren’t using. The Stills had expected to receive 10 to 13 coats and had a goal of 30.

But as the whole family got involved, the number of coats skyrocketed.

Elise’s dad, Ronald, walked around the neighborhood asking for coats and Elise’s mom, Christine, held a competition on Facebook that whoever donated the most coats would win a big Christmas bowl. Christine’s sister in Tacoma won the bowl.

Elise phoned friends and asked for coats. When she went to friends’ houses, she asked for coats and said she was surprised how many people had coats sitting around that they were willing to donate.

“It was pretty fun to see how many people would give us coats,” Elise said.

The Stills also traveled to garage sales and Christine found 10 coats for $40.

“I wanted to get high-quality coats so spent money,” Christine said, adding that she found snow-boarding and down coats that aren’t normally donated.

“We had a lot of fun with it. It definitely took everybody in the family to get that many coats,” Christine said. The Stills donated 10 coats themselves.

Elise had done similar work gathering canned food to donate in middle school and said she learned that she’s part of a supportive community.

“I learned that I can go around and ask people and they’ll give what I want for the community,” Elise said.

Kiwanis Club vice president Dave Sullivan came to help sort coats.

“We’re real happy to be able to do this. It’s amazing how many coats they collected and it’ll be great for the community, especially with the economy how it is,” Sullivan said.

Island Cleaners and Laundry will clean approximately 200 of those coats at no cost before they are distributed to organizations including Readiness to Learn, Ryan’s House, Oak Harbor School District students and other organizations in January.

The coat drive was a competition between “Islands” at Oak Harbor High School. The winning Island will earn a party.

“The Island Program is Oak Harbor High School’s system for helping incoming freshmen to ease the transition between the middle or junior high school and the more rigorous high school environment,” said associate principal Raenette Wood.

There are five Islands, each with 90 students rotating among the same math, science and English teachers. Sharing teachers helps students have common experiences and learning strategies and allows the teachers to follow the progress of their students through various subject areas, according to Wood.

One goal of the program is to generate a sense of community for the ninth-graders that links them to parents, staff and the Oak Harbor community, Wood said. The coat drive was the first of a variety of community service projects. Their next project will be a WAIF drive in February.

The drive was funded by a grant from the Oak Harbor Education Foundation.

The community spirit shone as students worked together to fill and haul giant bags of coats while laughing and chatting together.

“Awesome!” Wood told students as they walked by.

“That all happened in half an hour -- I can’t believe it!” Wood said about sorting and moving the coats.

“It was crazy fun,” Day said with a laugh.


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