Do you want to know your charitable donation or volunteer work really helps others? The PATH Coats for Kids drive is happening now, and it's an opportunity to make a deep impact on our community.

What Kinds of Coats Do East Texas Kids Need?

PATH collects coats for kids and teens. They can be new coats or "gently used" in sizes that fit infants through young adults. There's a list of drop-off locations on their website.

All coats are appreciated, but the best kind to give are the heavy-duty insulated type. Fleece and hoodies don't offer the type of protection kids need on really cold days.

What's It Like to Volunteer?

Giving your time is another way to make a difference. PATH needs volunteers to help set up for coat distribution, so if you like working behind the scenes, that may be the job for you.

One of the most touching volunteer opportunities available is helping pass out coats on November 17. PATH sets up "stations" at the North Tyler Developmental Academy (the old Griffin Elementary building). Children choose their coats, and PATH needs volunteers to facilitate the process. With more than 1,000 coats to pass out, that's no small task.

Volunteers call pre-registered families up one at a time. Sometimes a group includes a young couple with just one child, but it also could be a single parent with five children. They talk to each child about what kinds of coats they like and what are their favorite colors.

Armed with that information, volunteers scour the racks of stored coats to find choices. They return again and again with arms piled high so kids can decide which coat they like best. They get to see firsthand the delighted faces and proud new coat owners

Businesses can volunteer too. Brelsford Personnel owner Driedra Brelsford signed her business up to be a drop-off location because community involvement is important to her and reflects the values of her staff members. "Our team is so honored to participate in the coat drive which benefits so many in our community. Helping others is our privilege and is what makes Tyler so great."

Do Coats Really Make a Difference for East Texans?

PATH has been distributing coats for more than 20 years now. The first children who received coats are now adults. Many of them say the program gave them so much more than just a way to stay warm. It showed them the East Texas community cares about them and made them want to give back.

At this year's Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce 2018 Annual Meeting, one young woman received the W.C. Windsor Award for being Tyler's most outstanding citizen under the age of 40. Yaziri Orrostieta is 34 years old and she wants to make a difference.

When she was a child, Yaziri came with her parents from Mexico. She didn't have a winter coat, and her parents struggled financially. They went to PATH and received coats, eyeglasses and food.

Now Yaziri is a successful young professional. She has her master's in business administration in international marketing and works as marketing director at Heritage Land Bank. She served as an advisory member of the Tyler Police Department's Hispanic outreach program, chaired the entrepreneur committee for the Hispanic Professional Association of Tyler and was a Hispanic Business Alliance board member.

When she received her award she said, "PATH...played a part in me being here. It wouldn't have happened if this wasn't a giving community."

Yaziri isn't alone. Greg Grubb, PATH's Executive Director said recently a Tyler business owner contacted them wanting to know how he could help. They explained he could donate coats, give money, sign up to volunteer or act as a drop-off location.

The businessman then explained why he was so eager to participate. He experienced firsthand what it was like to be a child without a coat. When his family came to town, the only way he got one was through Coats for Kids.

Another young man managed a large restaurant in town. As a child, his mother died in Mexico, so his father brought him to Texas to be raised by family members. "They worked hard and they paid their taxes," Greg relayed, "But he said he needed a coat. He didn't have one coming from Mexico, and that's where he got one those first few years."

The child who receives your donation could become a leader tomorrow. When you donate or volunteer, you convey kindness. You let each child know he or she is surrounded by a warm community that cares.