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Bryn Mawr Civic Engagement Office sponsors coat drive

Bryn Mawr College's Civic Engagement Office's coat drive for the non-profit ACLAMO ends Dec. 9.

Nell Anderson said it happens every year since Bryn Mawr College's Civic Engagement Office began a coat drive about four years ago.

"Staff will come and say, 'I feel like I should give away this coat, my kid doesn't fit in it anymore,' and they start to give it away but won't let go," laughed Anderson, the office's co-director. "It's so hard for them to give the coat away, it's like they're sharing a part of their family."

Sentimental moments aside, staff, students and community members still manage to donate their coats to the Civic Engagement Office for Accion Comunal Latino Americano de Montgomery County (ACLAMO), a non-profit based in Norristown that assists the area's growing Latino population.

ACLAMO accomplishes this by offering educational, health, economic, social and cultural opportunities and services to Montgomery County's low-income residents, especially those of Spanish-speaking heritage.

Cathy Chezik, the field placement coordinator at the Civic Engagement Office, said that she and the office staff's goal was to offer more opportunities for students to volunteer and get involved with ACLAMO. The office has worked with the non-profit for about eight years.

"ACLAMO staff always say they appreciate the charity we do, but I don't see it as a charity, I see it as a responsibility to help make resources accessible," the 22-year-old social work grad student said. "It's also an equal partnership."

Chezik said Bryn Mawr students could get work-study experience compensation for getting involved at ACLAMO. They assist staffers there with everything from helping residents not well versed in the region's winter weather, to helping parents with the English they might need for their child's doctor appointments.

This is Chezik's first year running the coat drive, which began Dec. 1.

"I was shocked how attentive people were when they received notice of the coat drive," she said.

The Civic Engagement Office has only received a handful of jackets for the drive. Anderson said the office received over 150 coats last year, about 50 for little kids and the rest being for adults

Anderson said ACLAMO's need for jackets is more so for small, preschool-aged children and petite-sized women's coats.

"I feel we'll get 20 or so, but I hope we get more," Anderson said. "Even if we only get 20, it's still a good donation…and we really care about ACLAMO."

The last day to donate coats to the office on Bryn Mawr's campus is Friday, Dec. 9.