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Library helps kids prepare for winter by giving coats, shoes and books

Victor Lopez, left, and his mother Hilda sort though coats being given out by Operation Warm inside the Salt Lake County Library in South Salt Lake on Saturday. The family said they were so “grateful.”

Victor Lopez, left, and his mother Hilda sort though coats being given out by Operation Warm inside the Salt Lake County Library in South Salt Lake on Saturday. The family said they were so “grateful.” (Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)


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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Hundreds of kids and their parents lined up at the Granite branch of the Salt Lake County Library on Saturday, excited for new coats, shoes and books.

The library is helping provide new coats, shoes and books to about 400 children in South Salt Lake. Sara Neal, with Salt Lake County Library Services, said they reached out to families through local elementary schools and nonprofits designed to help refugees.

The turnout was bigger than they expected; library employees and volunteers passed out coats until they were gone.

Victor Lopez, left, and his mother Hilda sort though coats being given out by Operation Warm inside the Salt Lake County Library in South Salt Lake on Saturday. The family said they were so “grateful.”
Victor Lopez, left, and his mother Hilda sort though coats being given out by Operation Warm inside the Salt Lake County Library in South Salt Lake on Saturday. The family said they were so “grateful.” (Photo: Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

Neal said the county library partnered with Operation Warm, a national nonprofit that manufactures high-quality coats and shoes for children in need since 2019. The group holds charity events at different library branches one or two times each year.

In addition to providing access to some basic needs, the event aims to bring children to their neighborhood library branch and help families see what resources the library has to offer, Neal said.

"Families that don't have a lot of resources, if they can't buy a coat, sometimes they can't buy a book for their kids, as well; and we want to help support all of the early learning, and just the acclimation that happens when people come here," she said.

Viri Lopez is a single mom with three kids, so she said finances are a little stretched. The opportunity to get warm coats for her kids helped a lot. She said she is grateful she got a message from her children's school to let her know about the opportunity.

She works from home, but since work starts before her kids go to school, they need to walk or get a ride with a neighbor, Lopez said. Now, they'll be able to be warm when they need to walk and she can't be with them.

Because work is busy Lopez also hasn't been able to bring her kids to the library, as she said when she gets off work, she is cooking dinner for her kids. She said her kids were enjoying some rare time away from home at the library Saturday.

"It helps them get distracted and be out a little bit," Lopez said.

Thaw Reh, center, squats with his son, Moses, 6, left, while they wait outside of the Salt Lake County Library for new winter coats being given out by Operation Warm in South Salt Lake on Saturday.
Thaw Reh, center, squats with his son, Moses, 6, left, while they wait outside of the Salt Lake County Library for new winter coats being given out by Operation Warm in South Salt Lake on Saturday. (Photo: Ben B. Braun, Deseret News)

Neal said it was really rewarding to see hundreds of families come through the line. She said many of the people who came through are part of the refugee community and may not have experienced a cold winter before.

"To be able to offer them a chance of warmth and comfort during the winter is really important," she said.

After Neal watched the group of people lining up on a cold morning, she said she was very happy they had coats to give out.

She hopes the event will also help people know about resources at the new Granite library and take advantage of the books, online resources, citizenship classes, language learning, tutoring and after school programs.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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