'Coats for Clinton' helps neighboring school

'Coats for Clinton' helps neighboring school

Ken Dewey (left) and SNR director John Carroll with the "Coats for Clinton" donations.
Courtesy photos | Natural Resources
Ken Dewey (left) and SNR director John Carroll with the "Coats for Clinton" donations.

In 2007, members of UNL's School of Natural Resources outreach committee set out on a mission to do some good — especially around the holidays, when something in the air compels people to look inward so that they may give outward.

"Clinton Elementary School is our neighbor and we felt that it was important to be a 'good neighbor' and reach out to them to assist their students and families," said Ken Dewey, professor of applied climate science and SNR outreach coordinator.

Jennifer Frey, a former SNR recruiter who served on the outreach committee in 2007, said that one of her students had informed her about the poverty levels experienced by some Clinton students.

"She told me about the backpacks with food sent home with students to provide meals over the weekend," Frey recalled. "We understood they were also in great need of coats, as many children lacked appropriate warm attire. I went to the school, met with a person who coordinated such giving activities, saw the diversity of children and we went with it."

Now in its sixth year, SNR's annual "Coats for Clinton" drive continues to provide coats and winter gear to the students of Clinton Elementary, located at 1520 North 29th Street – just a few blocks away from SNR's home building, Hardin Hall.

The 2013 drive resulted in several bags full of warm attire and $475 in donations.

"The partnership that we have with the School of Natural Resources is very important to us," said Clare Nelson, Clinton Elementary family care coordinator. "And it's not just because of the help they provide with our coat, hat, glove and clothing drive – but the fact that they are a neighbor lending a helping hand is a great moral boost to our parents, students and staff."

Nelson said that many Clinton families struggle to make ends meet, which means purchasing winter gear can be challenging. SNR's cash donations will help those families swap out sweaters for winter-appropriate coats and replace worn-out shoes with new snow boots.

"I have several moms who are quite ill this year and they have been the first that we have helped with their clothing needs," Nelson said. "One mom in particular is going through cancer treatment for the second time. She is struggling with the care of her children and has had to stop working because of the side effects of treatment. She is a refugee from Sudan and has no family here in Nebraska – she is so grateful for the help she has received."

Looking to the future, Dewey said that the outreach committee is exploring the development of a field day for Clinton students hosted by SNR faculty and staff at Hardin Hall in the spring.

"What impresses me about SNR is how each year the faculty and staff cheerfully participate in this activity and each year their contribution of clothing and donations of money increases," he said. "I have spent more than three decades in the classroom and have conducted numerous research projects. However, it is these community engagement activities that have given me the most personal satisfaction."

Individuals interested in making a winter gear or cash donation to Clinton Elementary are encouraged to contact Clare Nelson at 402-436-1132 or cnelson3@lps.org.