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United Way short of coats and volunteers at end of outerwear drive

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Evelyn Cruz-Gregorio of Rochester tries on a pink winter coat at the Community Winter OuterWear Initiative distribution in the United Way Services building Thursday with her family. With Evelyn are her brother Iver and parents Dalia and Manuel.

More coats and volunteers were still needed even as families began to line up Thursday at the United Way of Olmsted County for the seventh annual Community Winter OuterWear Initiative distribution.

The shortage comes, not from a decrease in giving, but from an increase in need,

said Becky Nahvi, senior volunteer center and community impact specialist.

"The needs each year are increasing," Nahvi said. "Fortunately the community response is increasing as well."

Last year 2,586 people received coats through the drive. This year, 817 families totaling 3,347 individuals registered for coats, she said.

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The greatest need is for children's coats sizes 6 – 16 and adult coats sizes 2X, 3X and 4X, she said. And while the United Way continued to accept new and gently used winter coats and snow pants until noon today more will still be needed, Nahvi said.

Anyone who couldn't find a coat in their size was given a voucher to purchase one at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, so the United Way is encouraging people to donate coats there, she said.

Among those who were happy to find a winter coat, was 4-year-old Evelyn Cruz.

Even though it was warm inside the United Way building as people bustled about looking at coats, she kept her new bright pink coat on and zipped up.

And while her new coat made her smile, her father, Manuel Cruz knew a good coat is a necessity. Four years ago, when he didn't have a car, Cruz said he walked to work at 4 a.m. every morning and virtually wore out his coat.

As they selected new coats for themselves, Cruz and his wife Dalia Gregorio said they were grateful to live in such a supportive community, especially as they work to maintain a growing family. While their children Evelyn and Iver, 8, both outgrew their coats, so did Dalia, who is pregnant and due this winter.

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