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The Sentinel & Enterprise
By Michael Hartwell

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis was in Fitchburg Monday afternoon to kick off the 2011 Sheriff’s Annual Winter Coat Drive.

Last year the drive collected 1,200 coats for children in Northern Worcester County, and Evangelidis hopes to beat that record with the seventh annual drive this year.

“It is very important to do what we can to help those who may be less fortunate,” he said. “Providing an adequate winter jacket can be of great help during the cold winter months.”

He said clothing and heating oil are big expenses, and the donated coats will make it easier for some families to get through the winter.

“It’s not just a coat. It means a lot more,” said Nicolas Formaggia, counselor at the Spanish-American Center in Leominster. His organization, as well as the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center and Gardner Visiting Nurses Association, will be distributing the donated coats to area children.

Joana Dos Santos, executive director of the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, said some of the children the program will help this year have never owned a down jacket before.

Dos Santos and Formaggia both said they were pleased the program is continuing under Evangelidis, who became county sheriff in November 2010.

“With this winter having appeared a little early, we have serious needs out there,” said Evangelidis. He said there are still 700 coats from last year to give out.

New or like-new coats can be dropped off now until the beginning of December at the Office of Community Corrections at 19 Fairmont Place in Fitchburg, or scheduled for pickup at 978-342-1600.