UMWA donates coats to elementary schools

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON/ UNITED MINE Workers of America Local 1473 and Bellaire Elementary Schools officials gather Tuesday for a coat donation from the unionás Winter Warmup for Kids. Front row, from left, are Alyson Taylor, Tracy Badia, Derek Ault, Debbie McGuffin, Bob Miller, Tom Miller and Matt Huonker. Back row, from left, elementary Principal Ben Doyle, Brenda Dunlap, MaryAnn Young, Mike Rine, John Miller, Mike Payton and Donnie Samms.

BELLAIRE — Bellaire Elementary School students can now stay warmer at the bus stop, sled longer when the snow falls and enjoy watching Christmas parades thanks to the Winter Warmup for Kids.

A program of the United Mine Workers of America Local 1473, Winter Warmup is providing 300 coats to children in need, along with hats and scarves, this year to eight local schools in Ohio and West Virginia.

Local members recently presented the coats to staff at the Bellaire school. Others schools also receiving coats this year include Bridgeport, Martins Ferry and Barnesville. West Virginia schools receiving coats include Ritchie, Middle Creek and Elm Grove elementary schools in Ohio County and Central Elementary School in Moundsville.

John Miller, recording secretary for Local 1473 and a Mount Olivet resident, said he started the program five years ago after he drove by a school and noticed a young child not wearing a coast despite it being cold outside.

“He didn’t have a coat, but I did have a coat on and I wanted to do something about it,” Miller said.

Since then the UMWA, with help from Boscov’s and donations of money and coats from groups like Trinity Lutheran Church in South Wheeling, Christ Lutheran Church in Mozart, Align HR and UMWA members, have given away 1,300 coats to various elementary schools in the past five years.

Miller said the principals and staff members of each school determine which students are in need of the coats. They give Miller the sizes and how many are for boys or girls. Miller then gives that information to Boscov’s, which then compiles the needed coats for pickup by the UMWA.

“It doesn’t matter how many they need,” Miller said of a school. “If need they 50 coats we get them 50 coats.”

Donnie Samms, UMWA at-large international president and a Uniontown, Pa., resident, said Miller has the full-backing of the UMWA and his local members for the program.

“We’ve always tried to be involved in the community,” Samms said the union. “This local is the best example of that. It takes a lot of heart and a lot of work.”

Bellaire Board of Education member Jim Thoburn helped organize the giveaway gathering on Tuesday. He is glad for the donation to the children.

“It is greatly appreciated,” he said.

Miller noted the program limits its donations to elementary schools because many middle and high school students tend to want to wear sweatshirts and layers of clothing instead of coats.