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New coats bring smiles to faces of Detroit kids

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Snow flurries and a biting wind didn’t faze 11-year-old Kaila Lee. She had a new coat to keep her warm.

Detroit Lions player Brandon Copeland helps Leroy Omana, 9, from Detroit, zip up his new coat.

“My old coat was just a simple gray one; it didn’t really keep me that warm,” Kaila said, showing off her new turquoise down coat. “It’s very nice.”

Kaila was one of thousands of children to receive free coats Saturday, courtesy of Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple and Happy’s Pizza, along with Detroit Lions Stephen Tulloch, James Ihedigbo and Joique Bell.

“There were kids who came here with no coat on,” Tulloch said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to help give these kids coats.”

About 2,500 children were to receive coats, said Bishop Charles Ellis of Greater Grace Temple, which has donated about 25,000 coats to children in the past five years.

“It couldn’t happen on a better day,” said Ellis, gesturing to the snowflakes whipping around him.

“Regardless of the bad shape Detroit is in financially, it’s always been a giving community,” Ellis said. “Being out here today, I’m feeling the true spirit of Christianity, which is giving.”

Happy’s Pizza volunteers passed out the coats to children ages 3-13 who had vouchers, which were given at area restaurants. Free pizza and pop — and an appearance by Roary, the Lion mascot — made for a fun, but cold day for kids like Christopher Edwards, 5.

“I like both my coats,” he said, wearing his camouflage coat and clutching his new green one.

Melvin Epps, church spokesman, said children should be able to take some things — like a warm coat — for granted.

“The idea that a child would have to go without a coat in the 21st Century is something we can’t let happen,” he said.

Turkey distribution

As coats were being handed out to Detroit’s disadvantaged children, about 1,000 people in Pontiac got free Thanksgiving groceries.

Others First, Inc., a Michigan-based non-profit that raises money for various charities including disabled and homeless veterans, cancer research, children and animals, held its second annual Thanksgiving Outreach Saturday at Lee Industrial Contracting in Pontiac.

Others First paid for 1,000 Thanksgiving meals, consisting of one 12-lb turkey, 2 cans of corn, a can of green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and a box of Nabisco cookies.

Several charitable organizations passed out the meals, said Lew Elbert of Catholic Community Response Team, who organized the giveaway.

“We worked with various churches and human service agencies in Pontiac and asked them to pass out tickets to deserving people,” Elbert said.

Northern Oakland County was hit with several inches of snow, Saturday, but that didn’t deter most of the families from picking up their meals, Elbert said.

“We had about 100 no-shows, which was terrific, all things considered,” he said. “We were able to place the 100 extra meals with Grace Centers of Hope (church), so none of them went to waste.”

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