- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) - Sending more than 100 warm winter coats for children without adequate winter gear in Barrow took the coordination of Rotary clubs across Alaska.

With a mild winter so far in Kodiak, many students go to school in jackets or sweatshirts, but in Barrow, having a warm winter coat is required to go to school, said Sandy Solenberger, who recently moved back to Kodiak with her husband, Tom, after living in Barrow.

In Barrow, all school buses have both a driver and an attendant, and the attendant makes sure each child has a coat before they get on the bus, and makes sure someone is at home to make sure the child gets inside before the child is dropped off in the evening, Solenberger said.

The average high from December to March is below 0-degree Fahrenheit and below freezing from October to May.

Whenever they go anywhere at school, even just from the classroom to the cafeteria, which doesn’t require going outside, students are required to take their coats with them, Solenberger said, just in case there’s a fire drill or some sort of emergency requiring going outside.

A staff member at the North Slope Borough School District keeps a closet of coats to distribute whenever she hears about a need.

“Her stock was way down,” Solenberger said.

The North Slope Borough employees held a fundraiser and gave the money to the Barrow-Nuvuk Rotary, of which the Solenberger’s daughter, Diana, is a member.

“You can’t shop from Barrow,” Solenberger said, so Diana contacted her parents to ask for help from the Kodiak rotary clubs.

In Kodiak, Tom Solenberger contacted the buyer for Mack’s who researched what they currently had on sale and gave the Rotary a discount on the already discounted items.

“We were able to buy top-quality children’s parkas and snow pants for $15 each,” Sandy said.

On top of that, the Salvation Army had a stock of new winter coats donated by Fred Meyer, which they turned over to the project.

To ship the coats from one end of the state to the other took the work of yet another rotary member. An Alaska Airlines employee is also a member of the Barrow Rotary Club. She contacted the cargo desk and Alaska Airlines agreed to donate the shipping, Sandy Solenberger said.

Although this is the first time the rotary has sent coats to Barrow, it’s not the first time they’ve distributed coats to those in need. Annually, the rotary and the Salvation Army partner for the Coats for Kids program in Kodiak, and years ago, the rotary sent packages of winter gear to children in Siberian Russia. That one took a lot of cooperation as well with people contacting other people they knew along the way, including in Japan and Vladivostok, Russia.

For Tom Solenberger, that’s what rotary is all about.

“Everyone’s kicking in,” Tom said. “A lot of people cooperated to make something happen.”


Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, https://www.kodiakdailymirror.com

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