WATERLOO -- Fifth-graders Elizabeth Rains and Zyannah Davis wanted one thing when they picked out coats Thursday at Fred Becker Elementary School: to look exactly alike.

The two girls both found purple coats covered with a star design while Koats 4 Kids' volunteers distributed winter outerwear at their school. The pair added purple gloves and purple and black hats with a snowflake design.

"Yeah, we both like purple," said Rains. They wanted matching outfits "because we're best friends," she added. "We're new sisters now."

In the meantime, Davis' actual twin sister, Tyannah, had paired up with another friend and they were both picking out identical coats, as well.

Color also was an important element in second-grader Jayden Greene's choice of coat.

"I saw a coat that was green and I saw other green stuff, and I got it," he said, showing a hat, scarf and pair of gloves with the same light green hue. His coat was grey and green with a design on the front. A pair of black snow pants completed the ensemble.

Greene needed the new outfit to be ready for winter. He had a warm coat "but the zipper stopped working." He also had snow pants "but they got lost."

The children were among 124 who received coats, boots and the other items at Becker. It is one of 29 schools in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Evansdale, Elk Run Heights, Hudson, Dunkerton and La Porte City where the donation-supported organization began distributing the coats last week.

"We look at the needs, distribution is based on the needs," said organizer Julie Ehlers. Staff at the school identify the students with the most need to benefit from the effort.

"Many of our kids do not have the necessary clothing to protect them from the cold winter days ahead," said Ehlers, who started the distribution in 2012. "Providing these items to our children will keep them warm and gives them the opportunity to play alongside the other kids on the snowy playground."

Melissa Steggall, Becker's principal, said students' lack of coats and other winter gear is a concern. "To see kids come in a hooded sweatshirt because that's their coat is not acceptable."

Individuals and organizations gave $21,000 this year, which allowed for the purchase of 726 coats, 624 pairs of boots and 408 pairs of snow pants. They also had many hats, gloves and fleece scarves to give out, some of which were homemade.

Koats 4 Kids is just one of the organizations donating winter outerwear to children this year. The Waterloo Downtown Rotary Club’s Operation Warm raised $18,000 and earlier this fall donated 1,200 coats to children at seven schools in the city. The Young Professionals Network of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Board of Realtors recently donated hundreds of hats and mittens to Waterloo Community Schools' students.

"I think once people hear the need, they want to keep (children) warm," said Ehlers. "They don't want any kids to be cold in Iowa."

Third-grader Karlee Belgard is very happy about the warmth of her new winter wear. She found a two-tone blue coat and black snow pants during Becker's distribution.

Belgard, who hasn't always lived in Iowa, said she has only seen snow during two winters. Is she excited for the snow to fly?

"Not really," she said. "I don't like snow. It's too cold."

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Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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