Areli Villegas Alvarez pulled her pink coat tightly around herself. She was showing her first-grade classmates at Sheridan Elementary School its golden buttons and zippers, its fur-lined hood and its pink, giraffe-print interior. As she slid the zipper pull back and forth, she began to squirm with excitement.
"It’s so pretty," she said Thursday. "Just so pretty."
Saxson Steltz, right, was equally enamored with the zipper pockets on his new jacket. Saxson, also a first-grader, chose a camouflage coat because he said it reminded him of Army jackets he sometimes sees adults wear. And those zipper pockets? They’re useful, he said, because "if your mom or dad tells you to put something in your pocket, you won’t lose it."
Areli and Saxson were two of more than 600 kids to receive a free winter coat this week because of a donation from staff and customers at BJ’s Bingo in Fife. The company gave away jackets to students at Roosevelt Elementary School in Tacoma last year and wanted to contribute to a school with a high poverty rate and significant number of American Indian students, Sheridan principal Kelly Evans said.
The company has always done something charitable around Christmas, assistant general manager Jenynne DeNoble said.
"I’ve been working at BJ’s for 24 years," she said, "and I can’t remember a year that we didn’t do something."
The national charity BJ’s Bingo used last year, Coats for Kids, wasn’t able to provide the number of coats they needed, so the BJ’s staff approached stores in the South Sound area and asked for donations and discounts.
The final result: They were able to purchase more than $30,000 of coats for $15,000.
"What was so neat is the number of kids that said, ‘I’ve never had a new coat,’ " Evans said. "And there are a lot of them. Some of them are coming to school today for the first time in a new coat.
"This generosity is well-placed with our kids."