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Giving thanks, turkeys, dinners – and coats 

SHAW – ‘Tis the season for giving thanks, turkeys, dinners and, well, coats.  

On Wednesday, 2,000 students were thankful as they gobbled up 2,000 brand-new free coats gifted to them by an investment firm and a nonprofit organization.   

As part of its Coats for Kids program, Stifel, a local wealth-management and investment banking firm, partnered with Operation Warm to provide the winter wear. 

Students at Mullanphy Botanical Garden Investigative Learning Center Elementary and Buder Elementary Schools received 833 coats. The remaining will go to other area schools in East St. Louis and the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

More than 153 Stifel, Operation Warm and St. Louis Public Schools volunteers helped to distribute the coats class by class in the auditorium of Mullanphy Botanical Garden ILC at 4221 Shaw Blvd. 

They helped students try on coats, choose sizes and colors. Some helped them write their names on tags inside of the coats. 

“Thank you for the coats,” one class of students said in unison. One student with a steady smile on his face passed out hugs of appreciation to the volunteers. 

“I love seeing the kids so happy, joyful and appreciative,” said Stifel HR Manager Cassandra Ruppert, adding that the giveaway added engagement for the “great team of volunteers and associates.” 

The school’s principal, Kelli Casper, teared up and expressed her thanks for the gesture.

“It’s hard to see them get off of the school bus without a coat,” she said. 

“We do a lot, but we can’t do everything for all of them, so it’s a special day to see that the community cares about our students,” Casper went on, calling it a great picture when the school and neighbors worked together. 

Stifel IT Project Manager Sonya Brison said she enjoyed helping out and was about as excited as some of the students. 

“I really like this: A lot of kids in the community get to benefit from this by getting new coats. The truth is that parents can’t always afford them,” Brison said. 

St. Louis investment banking executive Kevin Ortmeyer, managing director of Stifel, is the brainchild of the annual coat giveaway. 

In the last seven years, his program has donated nearly 60,000 winter coats. Ortmeyer started the Coats for Kids program with the Chicago Public Schools when he was based there. 

He returned to St. Louis in 2017 and hopes to continue the program here. Last year, 1,300 coats were distributed at five SLPS schools. 

Giving: from students to seniors. 

Fourth Ward Alderman Sam Moore is doing his share of giving and distribution, too, beginning at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25. 

He’s delivering about 700 turkeys to residents in four senior facilities in his ward: Homer G. Phillips Senior Apartments (2601 Whittier St.), James House (4310 St. Ferdinand Ave.), Gillespie Village Apartments (4682 Labadie Ave.) and Vandeventer Place (1400 Pendleton Ave.) 

“They deserve it,” said Moore, who gets a kick out of seeing the seniors’ faces light up.   

“Most of them can’t get out or afford a decent meal, so this holiday gift will help them along the way.”

The remaining turkeys will be donated to individuals. 

Moore said he was thankful for the donations from Brown and Crouppen, Carpenters District Council, Lee Pawn Shop, Crown Food, and the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation. 

The DJCF, based at 724 Union, in conjunction with 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard, will do its annual Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat., Nov. 16, at Schnucks at 74 Grandview Plaza Shopping Center. 

The St. Louis City Urban League (935 N. Vandeventer) will present its annual Turkey Giveaway from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26. 

State Rep. Steve Roberts (D-77th Dist.) will give away 200 frozen turkeys along with Yeatman-Liddell Full Service School, at 4265 Athlone Ave. from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21. A free Thanksgiving dinner will be served at the school during that time. 

The Federation of Block Units Community Thanksgiving Dinner is from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, at New Perfect Peace Church, 3540 Marcus Ave.

Bill Beene

bill.beene@thenorthsider.com Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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