FULTON, NY – A coterie of Fulton school children will have cozy winter coats thanks to two local business owners and the generosity and kindness of the community.
Joe Cortini, owner of Cortini Shoe Zipper Canvas Repair, and Jeanne McManus, owner of Ontario Star Cleaners, have teamed up with Fairgrieve Home and School to collect, clean, repair and distribute gently used coats, hats and mittens to students in the district.
After accompanying his second grade son to Fairgrieve Elementary School last week for an award ceremony, local shop owner Joe Cortini had an epiphany.
“He was receiving the Principal’s Award,” Cortini said, “and I was seeing a lot of little kids coming into the gym. At the time I thought, ‘some kids have more than others.’ But nothing really clicked at that point.”
It was later that day, when his son came home from school that the pieces really fit together for Cortini.
“He got off the bus after school and I told him he needed to try on a few of his winter coats to see what fits and what doesn’t fit. I bought him a nice coat, but you also need the play coat and the back-up coat,” the second grader’s dad said. “As I was going through some coats that had been given to me by his cousins and another family friend, I realized he was trying on nine different coats.”
It was then that Cortini recalled the children coming into the gym earlier that day. “Just seeing these kids who weren’t prepared for winter, I said to my son, ‘Well, we need to give these coats away and pass them on to people who need them.”
But Cortini didn’t stop there.
“Then I began to wonder how many other coats are out there taking up space in closets maybe with broken zippers or missing buttons,” the businessman said. “So, I thought, ‘I’ll just throw a post up on Facebook and see if people want to donate.'”
Cortini’s post on Friday (Nov. 21) said:
We need your help. There are many children in our area that don’t have a warm coat for winter. Little kids are wearing coats that are too small, have broken zippers…and sometimes no winter coat at all … just a hoodie over a hoodie to stay warm.
I’m starting a program at my business to get these kids into warm coats.
And with that he put out a call for gently used children’s winter coats sizes 5 and up. “Broken zippers no problem as we can fix those; we can also do minor repairs. Hats, gloves and mittens are needed as well,” the shop owner wrote.
By the next day, as the donations started pouring in, Cortini realized he was going to need some help.
On Wednesday the Facebook post had more than 20,000 unique views and almost 700 shares.
“I called Jeanne and she said, “I was just going to call you and ask you if you wanted help!'” with that.”
McManus, new owner this year of Ontario Star Cleaners, 312 Seneca St., between East Third and Fourth streets in Fulton, had already received the first 50 coats from Cortini by Wednesday.
“We just washed the first batch, and we’re checking them over to see what needs to be fixed,” McManus said. “Next we’ll match them up with hats and gloves.”
“This is great,” she added, “he started a great thing.”
Cortini noted there is no cost to the donor or the recipient. “We are donating our services,” he said.
Items can be dropped off during business hours at Cortini Shoe, 215 Cayuga St., Fulton. The store number is 593-8914.