Lee County organizations receive coat donations from Iowa inmates

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 9:54 PM CDT
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KEOKUK (WGEM) - Lee County organizations are teaming up to continue meeting the need for coats in Southeast Iowa.

They’re getting a little help from the National Association for The Advancement of Colored People.

The United Way of the Great River Region in Keokuk hosts their annual coat drive every winter to keep families in Lee County warm.

Advertised on Facebook back in November, it was seen by some inmates who are part of the Iowa State Penitentiary NAACP program.

Those inmates raised money to allow the United Way and others to continue helping the people of Lee County.

Uniting people and resources to build a stronger community. That’s the mission statement of the United Way of the Great River Region in Keokuk.

Nikki Wilson said her organization is able to carry out that mission, thanks to some prison inmates.

“I did have an officer up at the penitentiary and he said, ‘I have coats for you,’” Wilson said.

Wilson said a group of twelve inmates belonging to the Iowa State Penitentiary’s NAACP program saw her post asking for donations of gently used coats, and wanted to help.

They were able to raise close to $700.

“They were looking for a place to donate to and they just happened to see our flyer and he reached out and he says what would you like, the money or the coats, and I’m like oh the coats,” Wilson said.

The United Way is spreading their resources throughout the community by giving the almost 40 brand new coats to the Hope Center.

Assistant Director Denise Estrada said it’s rare for residents who pick up coats from the free store to get something new with tags.

“In the past probably 15 years that I’ve been here, the community has always come through, but to know that we’re getting something that’s brand new, that’s really new for me,” Estrada said.

Estrada said seeing the inmates come together to make this happen shows that anyone can make a difference and the fact that the United Way is sharing the wealth is just the Keokuk way.

“Different groups within the community, we all have the same mindset and we all care about the community and so it’s not a competition, we are working together,” Estrada said.

Estrada said even with this contribution, the Hope Center will still accept coat donations of gently used or new coats year round.

Coats can be dropped off at their location on 12th Street in Keokuk.

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