Union coat drive will help St. Paul’s homeless youth keep warm

St. Paul RLF President Bobby Kasper presents coats and hoodies to St. Paul Project REACH staff (L to R) Cindy McGowan, Tracey Jackson, Karla Stewart, Beth O’Keefe and Ka Zoua Kong.

Union members in the East Metro raised over $3,100 to buy winter coats for students in the St. Paul Public Schools struggling with homelessness. Jackets and hoodies donated by a union screen printer nearly doubled the total haul for area children in need.

The coats and hoodies, dropped off at SPPS’ Project REACH offices Monday, aren’t likely to stay in boxes and shopping bags long. Home school liaison Karla Stewart said the need for winter gear is high across the district, from pre-K classrooms to high schools.

“If students don’t know how they’re going to stay warm on their way home – or if they’ll be able to stay warm when they get there – it’s really hard to focus during school hours,” Stewart said.

Project REACH provides education services and related support to homeless youth in the St. Paul school district. The district estimates 2,000 of its students struggle with homelessness annually.

Union members raise funds to purchase coats each winter as part of the Jean Jones Coats Initiative, named for a now-retired St. Paul teacher. The initiative is coordinated by the St. Paul Labor Studies and Resource Center, the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation’s nonprofit arm.

The coat drive received a boost this year from Union House, the buy-American retail outlet and screen-printing shop in Wyoming, Minn. Owner Max Anderson donated eight boxes stuffed with puffy jackets and hoodies.

“Union members nearly doubled their contribution to the Jean Jones coat drive this year, and Max Anderson’s generosity put us well over the top,” St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Bobby Kasper said. “I’m proud of the generosity our local labor movement continues to show the most vulnerable members of our community, year after year.”

%d bloggers like this: