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Visitors to a "coat boutique" at the EOC building in Fort Edward receive clothing, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. Kansas Betschen and her children Kianna Grant, 2, and Treyvon Grant, 1, select hats and coats. (Steve Jacobs - sjacobs@poststar.com)

FORT EDWARD -- Weeks of preparing for Thursday’s annual Coat Boutique, organized by the Washington County Economic Opportunity Council, paid off for organizers, volunteers and participants, with about 260 people receiving 225 coats and 435 extra items.

Program Coordinator Tyler Whitney, who led the event for the second year, said new ideas were put in place this year that helped improve the four hour-long run.

“We have books for the kids,” he said, noting the line for the event can start to form an hour before the doors open.

Patrons were limited to five at a time in the boutique area, which was open to any Washington County resident.

To participate, guests filled out an anonymous survey to collect information on age, family size, income and educational background. The information will be used to help with applications for grant funding of future projects.

Although no financial eligibility restrictions were set for the boutique, guests did have to provide proof of residency.

One person could collect one coat, along with accessories such as hats, mittens and boots, for each member of their household.

Kansas Betschen and her husband, Richard Grant of Fort Edward, were in attendance with their two children, Treyvon, 2, and Kianna, 1.

“If this wasn’t here, I don’t know what I’d do,” she said. She was hoping to get some snowsuits for the children.

She learned of the giveaway from her child’s Head Start program.

Whitney said they got the word out by sharing the information with area businesses and schools.

“It’s become well known,” he said of the event. The EOC sees repeat customers each year.

Many items available were new with tags, while the gently used coats looked new themselves thanks to Aroxy Cleaners in Hudson Falls, which donated the cleaning of all used items. Whitney said the organization used $1,000 to buy additional items from local thrift and consignment shops.

A large collection of hand-knit items were donated by AngioDynamics. A former recipient of the EOC’s weatherization program, “decided to pay it forward and knitted a bunch of items,” Whitney said.

Ken Comstock of Hudson Falls was one of many volunteers who helped set up the boutique and assist with patrons throughout the day.

Fresh from volunteering with the recent Stuff the Bus fundraiser, which helped stock area food pantries, Comstock said, “I really find this very fulfilling. It’s good to give back.”

He helped label the items and racks, another improvement made by Whitney this year, and he helped organize and hang the hundreds of coats.

“It’s really the perfect time for this,” said Comstock. “It’s just getting cold out. There’s definitely a need for it.”

Before making selections, patrons visited information tables set up by Fidelis, EOC, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County, Department of Social Services and Women, Infants, and Children.

For those that missed the event, winter wear will still be available by calling 746-2390. The EOC is also still accepting donations of coats and accessories.

You can read Christina Scanlon’s blog daily at www.poststar.com or follow her on Twitter at @CJ_Scanlon.

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