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SALT LAKE CITY — On Saturday, when the Knights of Columbus gathered to hand out 200 coats to children, they couldn't be more sincere.
They were accommodating to requests for a change in color. They made sure the coats could zip comfortably.
"This one is going to be warm for you," one man told a young boy.
Ray Lopez, state deputy for the Utah chapter of Knights of Columbus, said this is the second year the group has collected coats for children. At the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall at 35 South Rio Grande Street, they came with boxes holding around 200 coats.
Statewide, Lopez said more than 1,000 coats, both new and used, were culled together for communities such as Ogden, Tooele and Park City.
...The minute we put that coat on and tell them it's theirs -- big smiles. They're so happy and our Knights love doing it and knowing that we made a difference.
–- Ray Lopez
"All the kids, they don't know what to think of us," Lopez said. "But the minute we put that coat on and tell them it's theirs… big smiles. They're so happy and our Knights love doing it and knowing that we made a difference."
He said seeing the reaction of children and their parents was "wonderful." The project came about in an effort to keep children in school. After noticing that absentee rates in the school were noticeably higher in the winter months, the Knights spurred into action.
"We saw this was a need and went ahead and did coats for kids so, hopefully, this helps keeps the kids warm and helps them go to school and everything," Lopez said.
Jose Lazaro, basic needs services director for Catholic Community Services of Utah, said the event often goes beyond coats for some of the children.
"This is such a wonderful gift to our families whose children rarely get new items," he said.
Piedad Romero said she came to the distribution for her three children and said receiving the coats made her, and them, happy.
"I feel good because they have a coat," she said.
Families stood in line until it was their turn to enter the dining hall and then numbers were called out amid the chatter and hum as the knights were presented with a child and they tried to find the right fit. The children wriggled into their coats, reaching their hands through the sleeves and toward the ceiling as diligent Knights clipped tags.
"We're just glad to be able to do this for people that are in need," Lopez said.