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Organization looks to keep children warm during winter months
The “Coats 4 Kids” campaign began in honor of Becky Valencia, who died of meningitis. - photo by Photo Contributed

Although recent temperatures felt more like summer than fall, Westside Ministries is preparing for the cold, wet weather that is sure to eventually come to the Valley with their “Coats 4 Kids” program.

Westside Ministries will be collecting new and gently used coats for kids of all ages and sizes now through Dec. 1. Last winter, they gave 800 children a coat, a toy and a free haircut.

The “Coats 4 Kids” program began 20 years ago after the death of 11-year-old Becky Valencia. Valencia attended Westside Ministries’ Bible Club for kids. During that time Westside Ministries founder and director JoLynn DiGrazia noticed that Valencia never wore a coat.

“I kept asking her ‘where’s your coat?” DiGrazia said. Soon after, Valencia died of meningitis.

”She was playing out with friends on the street and literally fell over with it,” DiGrazia said. “She was taken to the hospital and never recovered.”

The following winter DiGrazia started collecting coats for the kids of the Westside who did not have one in Valencia’s honor.

Used coats and jackets can be dropped off at Carr’s Cleaners on Main Street or Geer Road. New coats and jackets or monetary donations to purchase new coats can be dropped off or mailed to Westside Ministries, 950 Columbia St., Turlock, CA 95380. Coats for toddlers to high schoolers are needed, however, DiGrazia said there is a particular need for coats that will fit elementary school age children because they grow out of them so soon.

Children in need of coats are referred to Westside Ministries through the schools. Families who have children in need of coats can also contact Westside Ministries at 667-8593.  To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.