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Photos courtesy of Ruth Basantes
Girl Scout troops from Jackson Heights collected more than 300 coats to donate to families in need this winter.

When Girl Scout troop leader Ruth Basantes went to pick up food at a local restaurant in Jackson Heights with her daughter last year, she witnessed a scene that shocked her.

“One night, my daughter and I were waiting for our food at a take-out restaurant. As we were waiting, we saw a woman with her three children run inside the restaurant to escape from the cold,” Basantes said. “They were all wearing sweaters and they were shivering. My daughter and I were shocked that something like this would happen in our neighborhood.”

Basantes and her daughter, Ashley Artieda, 11, ran home to collect old coats to give to the family but when they returned, the mother and her three children had disappeared. The duo made a pact to help families in need of warm clothes in the winter. Artieda, a Cadette Girl Scout, reached out to her principal at St. Joan of Arc School, John Fruner, and with the help of another Girl Scout troop leader, Lisa Koss, turned the parish into a coat drive collection center.

On Nov. 11, about 50 Girl Scouts from Troops 4349, 4315, 4298, 4269, 4274, and 4297 collected more than 300 coats. Some were given to directly to families passing through the church and others were donated to New York Cares, the city’s largest volunteer management organization. Officers from the 115th Precinct attended the event and transported the coats to New York Cares for distribution.

“We are so appreciative of Girl Scout Cadette Troop 4349 for collecting more than 300 coats for the New York Cares Coat Drive. Because of their hard work, we can keep even more New Yorkers warm this winter,” Erica Plofsky, a spokesperson for New York Cares said. “One of the most powerful ways to make an impact is to collect as a group among your co-workers, family or friends. They are a shining example of what teamwork can accomplish.”

Some of the Girl Scouts held signs inviting people in to collect free coats. Basantes said several troops saw a mother and her two children leave the coat drive with two full bags of coats and “some big smiles.”

“We hope that we see less cold people on the streets,” said Jalene Lugo,6, a member of the Daisies Girl Scout Troop 4315.

Next, Basantes’ troop will visit nursing home residents as part of an adopt-a-nursing-home program. The troops will also join Koss’ troop 4315 at the 7th Annual Jackson Heights Winter Caroling Sing-A-Long on Dec. 19.

“[The coat drive] was truly a community event,” Basantes said. “We are very blessed to live in such a caring community.”

New York Cares has set up 300 public collection sites around the city. People interested in donating coats can find a map of the sites here.

 

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