MAINE, USA — It’s NEWS CENTER Maine’s 39th annual Coats and Toys for Kids campaign. This year, due to the pandemic, we will continue with the NEWS CENTER Maine Wish List.
In 1983, the Salvation Army created this campaign to collect coats for Maine families who couldn't afford a warm winter coat. NEWS CENTER Maine and the Salvation Army joined together in 1990, establishing a Coats for Kids campaign partnership. In 2004, NEWS CENTER Maine added toys to the campaign, making it Coats and Toys for Kids.
Over the years, an estimated 838,000 coats and 79,310 toys have been collected.
The pandemic may have us all slowing down and changing our schedules, but in Maine, the cold weather and holidays will still come. We hope you can purchase a new coat and toy to help your fellow Mainers stay warm and happy this winter season.
2021 Coats and Toys for Kids Campaign
This year's campaign
This year, no grocery stores will collect new and/or used coats or new toys. To continue to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, we are asking viewers to buy from our NEWS CENTER Maine Wish List.
How to purchase a new coat and/or toys this year
Text KIDS to 207-828-6622 and a link to our NEWS CENTER Maine Wish List will be sent to your phone. You can then purchase a new coat and/or toy, and it will be shipped to The Salvation Army. From there, the new coats and toys will be distributed statewide.
Those who would like to donate to NEWS CENTER Maine’s Coats and Toys for Kids campaign but may not be able to text can click the link here to be directed to the wish list.
You can also mail a check to:
The Salvation Army
P.O. Box 3647
Portland, ME 04104
Please remember to put in the memo: Coats and Toys for Kids
Dates, times, and locations
Coats will be accepted through Saturday, Dec 18.
Toys will be accepted through Friday, Dec. 10, leaving time to distribute the items to those in need for the holiday season.
Even though NEWS CENTER Maine will not be holding our annual Coats and Toys for Kids Day at local Hannaford, Shaw’s, and Pratt Abbott locations this year, we will have several reminders for our viewers during our newscasts and on our social media sites. Watch and look for fun reminders.
While this campaign isn’t how it normally looks, we are grateful for all the viewers who have donated and will donate to Coats and Toys for Kids.
Why it matters
Major Donald Spencer is the divisional secretary for the northern New England division of the Salvation Army. He told NEWS CENTER Maine this mission is a "very practical" one and is a relatively easy way for Mainers to reach their neighbors and make a big impact.
Even though this campaign was virtual last year and is again this year, Spencer said it has still been successful. In 2020, the Salvation Army received almost $35,000 in cash donations. This year, around 9,000 items have already been distributed to kids throughout Maine, thanks to last year's efforts.
Spencer said loneliness has been a big effect of the pandemic, and this campaign even helps to address that need.
"When you or I are able to give something to someone who doesn't have, that's also a connection," Spencer said. "The coat, the boots, the gloves [don't] just keep somebody warm, but reminds [them] there's people out there who care. There are people out there who may not know [their] name, but they know there's a need."
Adele Pongo received items from the campaign last year for her twin babies, who are now a year and a month old. She came to Maine from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in February of 2019 and said the Portland Salvation Army is where she first learned to speak English. Now, she attends Southern Maine Community College.
Pongo said her first winter with her kids was really challenging since they didn't initially have coats — so the help from this campaign has meant a lot.
"When I was here, they helped me to have many coats and shoes," Pongo said, later noting of her experience with twins, "You need to have two things, maybe the same or [a] different color."
Pongo's husband has been a volunteer at the Salvation Army since 2019. Spencer said if you can't afford to donate to the campaign but want to help out, you can volunteer.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The video below aired Dec. 5, 2019.