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SOUTHBRIDGE — Baby, it’s cold outside. And getting colder.  But there’s some heartwarming
activity going on through the end of November to make things a little warmer in the Tri-Community area, even for the neediest among us. “The need is overwhelming this year(for winter wear),” says Kimberly Roy of Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis’ office. It’s in partnership with the Sheriff’s Department’s Annual Winter Coat Drive that students and staff at Southbridge Middle/High School (SMHS) have been collecting coats that soon will be added to the Sheriff’s cause.

The coats are scheduled to be distributed early next month at a few key locations in the Tri-Community area and throughout the county. The SMHS drive, going on for about a month, has been coordinated by the 30-member Student Council under the direction of Council Adviser Ricardo Carrero. With collection bins at all the school’s home football games this season and boxes also set up in the high school’s administration office, the students and staff had already collected, donated, and otherwise gathered about 80 coats as of earlier this week. New or “gently-used” coats may still be dropped off at the school offices, even as those already collected are headed for dry-cleaning at Twin City Cleaners, 147 West Main St., Dudley. “They give us a really good deal on the cleaning,” says Roy.

The Sheriff’s Coat Drive this year, in fact, is truly a collaborative effort, with Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, the New England Revolution soccer team, the Worcester County Reserve Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Twin City Cleaners, and the Southbridge High School Student Council. All joining forces with the Sheriff’s office.

Last year, the Sheriff’s Winter Coat Drive “was a great success, providing more than 1,500 new and lightly used winter jackets to families in need throughout the greater Southbridge area and the region,” said Evangelidis “This year, we’re determined to surpass that goal,” he adds, hoping to give away as many as 2,000, according to Roy.

“As many families continue to struggle, especially during these tough economic times, it is extremely important to do all we can to help those who are less fortunate,” said the Sheriff. “Providing an adequate winter jacket can be of great help during the cold winter months.”

Members of the SHS Student Council aiding in the school’s collection drive include: Kenneth Allard, Julianys Alvarado, Cameron Boisvert, Rosa Brito, Mark Butler, Tesslyn Castro, Delaney Ducey, Makayla Estrada, Taylor Feraco, Jennifer Freshette, Megan Garlie, Ana Gonzalez, Brett Horr, Erin Jovan, Hannah Lazo, Taylor Loconto, Karina Martinez, Callie Mathieu, Sarai McNeill, Kaytlyn Mekal, Jomaris Molina, Gabriella Oliveras, Elyse Pena, Neydi Ramirez, Amaliah Torres, Karina Torres, Conrad Waack,  Rebekah Walker, and Miranda Watkins.

The coats are slated to be distributed locally on Thursday, Dec. 5. “We’ll be in the North County in the morning,” said Roy, “and in Southbridge probably about 1:30 p.m.” Local recipients of this year’s coats will include Tradewinds Club House on Main Street, the Center of Hope on Foster Street, and Catholic Charities at 79 Elm St.

Those wishing to contribute winter wear to the drive may still do so at the high school or directly at Twin City Cleaners in Dudley, Roy adds. The coat drive will continue through the end of November.

Those seeking information on how to receive a coat, or wanting to have one picked up, may call the Sheriff Department’s Civil Process Office (at 240 Main St., Worcester) at: 508-796-0344.