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SJU Helps Distribute Donated Coats to Those in Need

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

St. John’s University and After-School All-Stars New York (ASASNY) teamed up with the global nonprofit Soles4Souls on January 27 to distribute approximately 500 new coats donated by Macy’s to ten local shelters and a Queens middle school.

The initiative began in November 2013, with Soles4Souls, which collects new and used shoes and clothes from schools, faith-based institutions, and corporations to distribute among the needy. The organization reached out to ASASNY for help in finding New York City-area recipients for the coats. ASASNY, which partners with St. John’s to provide after-school and summer programs for underserved children, asked the University for assistance.

The Vincentian Institute for Social Action (VISA) at SJU stepped in, identifying child- and family-focused nonprofits that would benefit from the donation. They included the Briarwood Family Residence, Forestdale, New Life, Greenhope, Venture House, Momma’s House, INN, Lifeway Network, Stapleton UAME Church, and Homes for the Homeless, as well as a number of students at Robert A. Van Wyck Middle School in Jamaica, Queens.

“Thanks to our partnership with After-School All-Stars, we were able to help provide these vital resources to those most in need,” said Deanne Southwell, executive director, VISA. “This relationship is a shining example of the University’s commitment to addressing the needs of the community.”

The coats—all women’s and junior’s sizes from brand-name designers like Betsey Johnson, Ellen Tracy, and Steve Madden—were stored at Carnesecca Arena on the University’s Queens campus. SJU student volunteers, aided by several students from Robert A. Van Wyck Middle School, sorted the coats and helped staff members from the nonprofits select appropriate sizes.   

“What St. John’s is doing is a big help, because the young women who live with us are homeless and there is no extra money for coats,” said Deirdre Shea, assistant director of Momma’s House, based in Wantagh, Long Island. “This winter, I have seen some girls wearing nothing but a thin sweatshirt.” Shea took 40 coats back to her Momma’s House residents.

The middle-school volunteers enjoyed learning about the importance of service. “Today taught me a lot about thinking of people other than myself,” said 13-year-old Destinee Hill. “It feels really good to give to women and children who don’t even have coats on their backs.”

ASASNY has been a partner of St. John’s University for almost two decades. The organization provides after-school programs to low-income, at-risk youth to promote academic, professional and personal success.