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DONATED COATS WARM WELCOME FOR SCHOOL KIDS.

Byline: Dennis McCarthy

You look at the feet first, Adrian Kirman says. The feet are the first tip-off something is wrong.

No child should be coming to school on a cold winter morning wearing sandals.

You look for the coat next, says the assistant principal at Langdon Avenue Elementary School in North Hills.

If it isn't there, or if the coat the child is wearing is so old and threadbare that it provides absolutely no real warmth from the cold morning air, you know what you have to do next.

You have to reach out to the community. Then, you have to wait, and hope the community reaches back out to your kids.

The winter coats lined the floor of the school hallway last month - smallest to largest sizes.

Teachers and parent volunteers at Langdon Avenue Elementary School led the kindergartners out first. Walked them by hand, 20 at a time in two rows, from their classroom into the hallway.

``Choose one you like,'' the teachers told their students. ``We'll help you try it on first to make sure it fits.''

The kids held back at first, not quite sure they were hearing right. These coats lying on the hallway floor were for them? They could just walk up and pick one out - put it on and walk away with it?

No one was going to stop them? No one was going to tell them to put it back, it didn't belong to them?

``When they finally realized it was OK, that these coats were for them, their eyes just lit up,'' Kirman said. ``It was one of the most heartwarming scenes I've ever seen as a teacher. They were absolutely thrilled, trying on their winter coats.

``These are some of the sweetest children you'll ever meet,'' she said. ``They just don't come from families with much money, that's all.''

Most of the kids who go to Langdon live in the low-income apartment complexes that ring the North Hills elementary school - far from the more upscale neighborhoods where these coats lining the hallway at Langdon came from.

From schools like Chaminade Intermediate School in Chatsworth, where the kids donated more than 350 coats last year, and other local schools where kids were reaching out to help other, less fortunate kids living in the same Valley they all live in.

For most of them, these were last year's coats - still like new, but a little small. Perfect for smaller kids without a warm coat to wear walking to school on cold mornings like these.

Kids Adrian Kirman sees walking through the doors of her school every morning - checking out their feet first, then their coats.

``It's shocking sometimes, watching them come to school in mid of winter wearing sandals and no coats,'' she said.

``We were hoping to have enough donated coats so we could put some aside for the kids who were off-track in December, but we wound up having only enough coats left over for the older kids coming back to school in January,'' Kirman said Tuesday.

That left the younger kids in kindergarten through the third grade without coats this winter.

So once again Adrian Kirman is reaching out to the community for her kids. ``We need about 300 coats for the smaller kids,'' she said Tuesday.

Kirman is asking that anyone with coats their kids have outgrown please drop them off at one of five different Salvation Army stores that will make sure they get to the kids at Langdon.

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with the Woodland Hills Rotary Club, has been instrumental in providing the students from low-income schools in the Valley with coats for the winter.

The stores, which are listed in the phone book, are located in Canoga Park, North Hills, San Fernando, Sun Valley and Canyon Country.

Just mention the coats are to be set aside for the elementary school children at Langdon.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 28, 1999
Words:651
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