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Sheriff Lew Evangelidis (center) announces the kickoff of his annual Winter Coat Drive with representatives from the Sheriff's Office and the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center.

WORCESTER, Mass. – Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis has kicked off his Annual Winter Coat Drive to help keep needy Worcester County families warm.

A collaborative effort of the sheriff, the Fitchburg Office of Community Corrections, and local businesses Wachusett Mountain and Independent Cleaners, the drive provides new or lightly used coats to families in the Gardner, Leominster and Fitchburg areas

Last year’s drive collected 1,300 coats, and Evangelidis says he is “determined to surpass that goal” this year.

“As many families continue to struggle during the winter months and especially during these tough economic times, winter coat donations are more important this year than ever,” Evangelidis continued. “It is very important to do all we can to help those who may be less fortunate. Providing an adequate winter jacket can be of great help during the cold winter months.”

This year’s coats will go to the Spanish American Center of Leominster, the Community Action Committee of Gardner and the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center of Fitchburg.

“The Spanish American Center cannot thank Sheriff Evangelidis and the Fitchburg Office of Community Corrections enough for continuing the annual winter coat drive,” said executive director Neddy Latimer. “The Sheriff’s Coat Drive provides our residents with more than just a winter coat, it provides warmth and a sense of dignity for those individuals most in need during the cold winter months.”

The Sheriff’s Coat Drive will run through the beginning of December. Donations may be dropped off at the Fitchburg Office of Community Corrections, 19 Fairmont Place, and Independent Cleaners of Fitchburg or scheduled for pick up by calling 978-342-1600.