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Kitzmiller Coat Drive Still Thrives

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The Karen Kitzmiller Coat Drive started by Kitzmiller and her husband, Warren, involved reaching out to colleagues and community members to donate coats. Now, over 30 years later, other organizations have carried on the project. Photo by Carla Occaso

The annual cold weather coat drive started in 1989 by the late Rep. Karen Bitterman Kitzmiller, D-Montpelier, is still alive and thriving thanks to a group of local organizations. 

Montpelier Rotary Club Secretary-treasurer Bill Miles tells The Bridge his organization has taken the helm to raise funds and purchase coats to be distributed with the help of a local bank and the city’s school district. “Last year, over 400 coats were purchased,” Miles wrote. “This year we raised funds with big help from Community National Bank and purchased and distributed probably 300.”

In addition, the Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools district reached out and obtained sizes for about 25 to 30 specific children. Those children got coats, pants, hats, gloves, and boots. This effort follows in the footsteps of the original event, which then Rep. Kitzmiller started with the help of her husband, Warren, and coworkers and friends.

This screen shot from this year’s coat drive online order for children’s winter gear represents how the Montpelier Rotary Club continues to get warm winter gear to families who need it, while staying COVID-safe. Courtesy photo.

Originally, people were asked to wash and donate winter gear to those who needed it.

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Warren Kitzmiller, who took over Karen’s seat in the House of Representatives when she died in 2001, wrote a public letter published in several newspapers commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the coat drive. But the following year, because of COVID-19, the coat drive did not go on as usual. Instead, the Rotary Club raised funds, which were funneled through local civic organizations to get the needed winter gear out to local families, according to a report. Also last year, Community National Bank committed $5,000.00 to the cause.
Kitzmiller also wrote that over a decade ago the Community National Bank had offered invaluable support for the drive in Montpelier and Barre. The Montpelier Rotary took the reins in 2019, in partnership with the bank. Anyone wishing more information or who seeks to donate funds may contact Montpelier Rotary Club Secretary-treasurer Bill Miles at 802-498-5023.

Editor’s note: The author’s mother,  the late Emily Neary, was Karen Kitzmiller’s friend and an enthusiastic supporter of the Kitzmiller annual coat drive.