The purpose of the AJLI Community Impact Award is to recognize successful community programs that are comprised of a multi-strategic approach and operate in collaboration with other community stakeholders (e.g., government, business, non-profit).
The Junior League of Austin’s Signature Program, Coats for Kids (CFK), received an Honorable Mention for the 2023 AJLI Community Impact Award.
CFK is The Junior League of Austin’s (JLA) longest running Signature Impact Program, which just completed its 36th year and distribution of its 1 millionth coat. JLA began collaborating with CFK almost 30 years ago. JLA now jointly partners with Jack Brown Cleaners, iHeartRadio, and KVUE to execute the program. CFK 2022 exceeded its 30,000 coat goal to distribute over 32,000 new and gently used coats to Central Texas children in need, including the one millionth coat distributed in the history of CFK. JLA collects coats with the help of our membership, partners, and community coat drives. The CFK program also purchases new coats using donations and funds raised.
CFK’s goal is to keep as many children as possible warm so they can thrive. This goal is measured by the number of coats distributed to eligible children, and is considered a success when at least 30,000 coats are distributed annually to children in the Austin community. JLA believes it is providing more than a coat, it is also an educational tool that allows children to successfully engage in outdoor activities and field trips. CFK provides coats to children living in particularly vulnerable areas where high percentages of students are classified as economically disadvantaged. CFK not only provides coats to the children who attend school, but families can request coats for all children in the household, ages 0-18.
CFK continues to rely on its close partnerships with the community as well as its long standing partners – Jack Brown Cleaners, iHeartRadio, and KVUE. Every year, these community partners publicize the coat drive to the greater Austin community and assist with cleaning and distributing the coats. In 2022, 60 schools, 69 businesses, and 20 community organizations hosted coat drives for CFK. Additionally, CFK involves volunteers both within and without JLA. Throughout the year, 51 JLA members serve on the CFK committee and over 450 JLA members volunteer each year alongside over 1,000 other volunteers from throughout the Austin community for a total of over 4,500 hours. CFK aims to maintain a sustainable program, which relies on community volunteers. This goal is measured by volunteer surveys which assess how meaningful the volunteer opportunity was, the likelihood of someone volunteering again, and helps to gain insights for improvement.
In its 36 years, CFK has achieved incredible milestones, like distributing over 1,000,000 coats to children in need, but also continues to adapt and improve. Historically, CFK held a large distribution day at Austin’s Palmer Events Center. Due to COVID-19, CFK adapted to deliver coats directly to children through their schools and community agencies and to distribute remaining coats from the JLA Community Impact Center, JLA’s new headquarters. During the 2021 coat drive, donations were low, likely due to the continued effects of the pandemic, so JLA partnered with KVUE to put out a community call to action asking for more coats. Within 48 hours, the program received 10,000 additional coats. The call to action also sparked an interest from Love, Tito’s, the philanthropic arm of Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Love, Tito’s issued a challenge match of $50,000 to purchase more coats, and by December 31, JLA raised $58,000 to meet this goal. With the help of Operation Warm, Coats for Kids purchased 5,000 additional coats thanks to the Love, Tito’s challenge match!