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Nicole Phillips, Published September 28 2012

Kindness is Contagious: Give someone gift of warmth this winter

When I was a little girl, my mom took me shopping for a winter coat. My parents had recently divorced and were still trying to figure out who would pay for what when it came to clothes, shoes and after-school activities.

Wintertime was right around the corner, so my mom and I went to the one department store in town and marched right up to the second floor to find something warm and economical.

After trying on what seemed like 400 different coats, I found the one that I could not live without. Of course, I could live without it, but when you’re in third or fourth grade, you can get your heart set on something pretty easily.

I still remember that coat. It was white and covered with purple and pink hearts. It even had a matching hat, scarf and mittens. When I saw that coat, it was like the clouds parted and beams of light shined down through the ceiling. I pictured myself running around at recess, warm as could be, giggling and playing with all of my friends who were admiring my new winter gear.

My beautiful mother looked at the price tag, swallowed hard and then said, “Maybe we can put it on lay-a-way until I get my next check.” I don’t remember how much the coat was, but I do remember that we couldn’t afford it.

Regardless, my mom gave the clerk $10 as a down payment, and the coat was whisked away to a little back room to wait for us until we could return to pay for it.

A few weeks later, we went back, money in hand. I was beyond excited. It was starting to get cold, and I was praying for a quick frost so I would have a good reason to pull off the tags.

Here’s the problem. When we went back for the coat, it was gone. I’m not sure what happened. My mom explained the situation and that poor clerk looked everywhere, but she couldn’t find my coat. Times were different then, so there was no talk of going online and getting another one shipped in. It was gone. We got our $10 back and that was it.

I was devastated. I’m certain I got a different winter coat that year, but I don’t remember what it looked like or if it kept me warm. I just remember the one that got away.

I didn’t know it then, but I was lucky. Even on a very limited income, my mom could afford to buy me a coat. There are lots of people in our community – many of them kids – who don’t have that option.

Will you do me a personal favor this weekend? Will you go into your closet and see if you have an extra coat? One that maybe the kids have outgrown or that you don’t wear very often? Or if you have the financial means, go to the store and buy a beautiful, colorful coat (the one with the matching hat, scarf and mittens) and give it to a child. It may be the first really special thing he or she has ever owned.

There are two winter coat drives in Fargo: Coats for Kids and Families, run by The Salvation Army, and A Coat Before the Storm, which Family Life Services, Inc. is heading up.

To donate to The Salvation Army, bring your coat to 1503 1st Ave. N. in Moorhead. The Family Life Thrift Store, at 1000 45th St. S., Fargo, is another great place to take your donation. In Fergus Falls, take it to Jackson’s Baby Store at 111 N. Cascade.

All sizes (kids and adults) will be gratefully accepted. Please take the time to wash your coat before you donate it, so someone else doesn’t have to.

If you need a coat, The Salvation Army will be distributing them at the Moorhead address listed above Oct. 9-13.

Family Life Services, Inc. will be distributing coats at the downtown Fargo YMCA from 1 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.

Thank you for using kindness to keep our community warm.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.