By Timothy Chipp email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — For the most part, the warmth of 2013 is in the rearview mirror. Soon, there’ll be snowmen and forts, driveways in need of shoveling and hot chocolate replacing iced tea as the drink of choice.
It’s only going to get colder as the calendar continues to erode towards 2014.
In the world of Capitol Cleaners father-son tag team Joe and Russ Petrozzi, this means it’s time to start distributing those thousands of winter coats, mittens, gloves and scarves they’ve collected throughout the long year through their Coats For Kids campaign to the people who need them most.
“We have our customers bring us coats whenever they want,” Joe said. “In the summertime, when it’s 90 degrees out there, they’re bringing in these coats. It may look funny at the time, but we’re very fortunate they do.
“The demand for them is still there. That’ll never change.”
Saturday marks the first of two planned distributions for Coats For Kids, when volunteers from the St. Vincent dePaul Society help the Capitol Cleaners staff hand out hundreds of their warmth-inducing jackets and winter accessories. The program runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the dry cleaning business’s Portage Road warehouse, directly behind the 1227 Main St. location.
Their second event is set for the same time on Saturday, Dec. 7.
It’s all part of a nationwide program started right here in Niagara Falls, which gives away approximately 20,000 coats just in Western New York. The Petrozzis usually see between 3,000 and 5,000, depending on the weather, leave their storeroom each year.
A lot of the focus is on the coats given away during the distributions. They’re often new or never worn – though they’re still cleaned by the business just in case – and bulky and warm. But one of the more important needs for anyone outside in cold temperatures is a nice hat or a comfortable pair of gloves.
For these items, the Petrozzis rely mostly on not only the donations of others, but also the creation of others.
“Hats and gloves are interesting,” Russ said. “We have a lot of people who make them for us.”
“They often drop them off this week and they start immediately on making them for next year,” Joe added.
As part of the program, many schools are involved, both in receiving the coats and in donating them. While schools in Niagara Falls have historically been more recipients of the materials, the bordering school districts have all helped provide some of the jackets themselves.
“We donate a lot to the schools,” Russ Petrozzi said. “But we also get a lot from the schools. We usually get a lot from Colonial Village and Lew-Port sends us a ton each year. Of course in the Falls, they get a lot of our coats. It’s done quietly because of how kids are.”
For more information on donating or receiving a winter coat, visit www.capitoldrycleaners.com or call 282-7971.Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.