By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank Primary School nurse Cathy Reardon sees it every winter year, she said: students in threadbare, hand-me-down coats, sometimes a couple of sizes too small.
Beginning immediately, though, those kids will be getting new winter coats for free, thanks to the efforts of the borough-based Knights of Columbus council #525.
Superintendent Jared Rumage and school board attorney Armen McOmber, right, helped with the coat delivery. School nurse Cathy Reardon, below, will distribute the coats to RBPS students. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Accompanied by Mayor Pasquale Menna and Congressman Chris Smith, volunteers from Knights of Columbus council #525 delivered 50 new insulated coats to the primary school Wednesday. Another 50 are on their way, said Tom Wieczerzak, the council’s Grand Knight.
The jackets are available to all K-8 Red Bank children, regardless of where they attend school, Wieczerzak said.
Under a national Knights of Columbus program called Coats for Kids, the Red Bank-based council was able to acquire the coats for $20 apiece from retailer Columbia Sportswear, said K of C volunteer Sean Di Somma.
A recent survey of the local schools identified 89 likely recipients in the local district’s two schools and the Red Bank Charter School, he said.
“It was disturbing to find out” the need was that great, said Wieczerzak, who helped revive the K of C for Red Bank proper in 2014, decades after it was shut down by the Diocese of Trenton for violating Prohibition. The aim, he said, was to ensure that no school child in town was insufficiently protected against the cold.
The coat arrived just in time, said Reardon. “Cool weather is already upon us, and kids are showing up without coats,” she said.
Under the program, she and her cohorts at the charter school and St. James School have the ability to make the coats available without any paperwork being filled out by parents, she said.
And because they’re brand-new coats in a variety of colors, there’s no stigma associated with the garments, Reardon said.
Wieczerzak said the K of C would try to accommodate non-Red Bank children where possible.
Funding for the program came from local donors and a raffle run by council #525. Those wishing to contribute to the effort may send donation checks to Knights of Columbus Council #525 at 94 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701.