For several years, Kate Lyles and a couple of her friends collected coats in the fall and donated them to the Salvation Army.

For several years, Kate Lyles and a couple of her friends collected coats in the fall and donated them to the Salvation Army.

This year, her mother, Sally, joined them as they expanded the program to include all three Westerville high schools.

Last year, the Salvation Army started a new program called the "Coats for Columbus Football Challenge," said Alice Hohl, community relations director for the Salvation Army of Greater Columbus.

Around central Ohio, there are a number of football rivalries, so the thinking behind the program was to center the coat drives around the games between those teams, with each challenging the other to collect more coats.

On Sept. 26, Westerville Central played Westerville North on the gridiron so Sally and the girls organized a coat drive for that night. They collected nearly 200 coats with Central winning the challenge.
That same night, Westerville South also collected coats that went to the Salvation Army.

"We saw this as an opportunity to collect more coats this year," Sally Lyles said. "Next year we know we will do even better."

"Without coordinators like the Lyles, we wouldn't have any coats to give to people who need them in the winter," Hohl said.

The coats are taken to local dry cleaners, who donate their services, before they are distributed, she said. Those that can be washed go to the Pickaway County Correctional Facility for laundering.

In the past, the Salvation Army has distributed coats at one center, most recently the Veterans Memorial facility on Broad Street in Columbus. But some people did not have transportation or couldn't come on the day of distribution, Hohl said, so this year the coats are being divided among the Salvation Army's thrift stores. People can sign up for a voucher to come in and pick out coats for their family members and themselves.

While collections go on all year, the fall season is when the big push is on, Hohl said. Anyone wanting to donate coats can take them to any Columbus public library through Oct. 31.