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Wanted: Coats

Lieutenant governor lends a hand in local coat drive.

With the temperatures dipping down to dangerous levels, area residents are digging into their closets and emptying their attics in search of coats for some of the area's neediest residents. Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) visited the Embry Rucker Community Shelter on Saturday, Jan. 25 to help sort donated coats and jackets.

"I have heard a lot about Reston Interfaith, so it is good to finally see their work up close," said Kaine, before taking a tour of the Reston shelter. "Clearly they do a great job and this coat drive is very important, especially considering the weather outside."

Reston Interfaith and Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) have teamed up to make sure the community's disadvantaged children, adults and seniors will not go cold this winter.

Kerrie Wilson, the executive director of Reston Interfaith, was excited to have the lieutenant governor help out with the coat drive and to see what her organization is all about. "His presence helps us tell our story to a wider audience," Wilson said. "I was really encouraged by what he was saying, especially with his emphasis on social issues. I think he really heard us and that feels good."

The director of Embry Rucker, Anita Bonic, escorted Kaine through her shelter. Bonic said she was impressed with his level of understanding and she appreciated his down-to-earth "regular guy" interactions with her shelter's clients. "With all the bad news that has been coming out of Richmond lately," Bonic said, "it's nice to know we have another voice there."

With the temperatures dipping below freezing, Bonic and her staff have had to be creative in accommodating the increased numbers of needy individuals and families. "During the winter, anybody who asks to come in, we let them," Bonic said. "We let them stay in the shelter. We have been full, but we have been putting people on couches. Anything is better than the cold."

KAINE WAS ONE of several volunteers who pitched in to sort the dozens of donations before the "closet" opened on Monday. Edythe Kelleher, of Vienna, brought her 11-year-old son, Daniel, to the shelter on a brisk Saturday morning to help with the coats and in the kitchen. "I like helping the community," the Vienna Elementary School sixth grader said.

"I am thrilled to see the Reston community's positive response to this effort. The bitter weather we've experienced over the past week has only heightened the severe hardships that some in our community face," said Hudgins. "These are ongoing problems and every little bit we do to solve them reduces suffering in our community."

Donations continue to be accepted and can be made during business hours at the Hunter Mill District Office, the North County Governmental Center and the Rucker Shelter.

The Winter Coat Closet has received hundreds of donations so far this winter and Hudgins' office began distributing coats on Monday in the community room of the North County Governmental Center (12000 Bowman Towne Dr., Reston). Distribution will continue through the end of March on Mondays between 10 a.m. and 12 noon; Wednesdays, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.; and Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Families are invited to get coats, no questions asked.