The cold weather and the absolutely freezing weather will be here before we know it and among those who will battle the elements everyday are our kids as they head to and from school and the bus stop.

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United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties is holding their annual 'Warmest Wishes Coat Drive' by collecting coats in an effort to keep kids warm as the seasons change.

One of their missions throughout the year is to find the needs of the people living in the community and help our neighbors in filling that void.

"We actually use to run a holiday gift drive, very successful, and then we realized the market was beginning to get saturated with other organizations doing it just as well, so we decided to turn to our partners and see what else could we help with," Lori McLane, CEO/President of United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, tells Townsquare Media News. "One of our partners that we work closely with is our local schools. They really (have) been a great community resource, they have the true pulse on the needs of the students and their families."

The organization then had conversations with their school partners and learned that new winter coats for students was a great need.

"The administration was noting that kids from lower income families were wearing hand-me downs, that quite honestly have seen better days, or they weren't wearing coats at all," McLane said. "This was especially true for those districts that had a large population of students who walked to school in the cold winter months."

Since beginning their annual 'Warmest Wishes Coat Drive' in 2012, UWMOC has distributed 10,000 coats to children in need across Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

They are looking to help even more children be able to bundle up good with a nice new winter coat this year as well.

"This coat drive is very important for families who are financially impacted especially through this ongoing pandemic but our needs have changed, our environment is different, schools are teaching differently, there's a lot of outdoor activities that weren't happening over the last couple of years," McLane said. "It's not just recess or break, it's snack and math breaks are outside/outdoor learning, so that's why coats are so important right now."

You can help, by whatever your means allow, with this drive and help a kid or two stay warm this fall and winter.

"We're collecting new coats -- coats with tags on them -- sizes: toddlers 3T - 5T and then children sizes: Small - Extra Large," McLane said. "They will be distributed to over 30 schools in both Ocean and Monmouth Counties."

There are a couple different ways you can donate coats to UWMOC: place in drop box outside of their office in Wall Township or you can call or email them to arrange a time and place for a pick-up/drop-off.

While this is a Coat Drive, you can drop off other winter/cold weather essentials as well including hats, gloves and scarves.

"Although we say 'Warmest Wishes Coat Drive', we do get a large variety of hats, gloves and scarves and socks, we get a decent amount of socks as well -- anything to keep them warm," McLane said.

The United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties 'Warmest Wishes Coat Drive' is running from now through November 30 -- Giving Tuesday -- and this is a great way to give and help others.

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