By ANNA CLAIRE O’CAIN
Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz is a nonprofit organization located in Batesville. Founder Linda Keys and her team are passionate about providing Mississippi children, seniors, and anyone in need with a new coat and sharing with them the warmth of God’s love. MCL Contributing Writer Anna Claire O’Cain spoke with Linda about her ministry and the work Mississippi Coats 4 Kids is doing across the state.
Anna Claire O’Cain: What is Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz?
Linda Keys: Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz is a ministry under nonprofit 501c3, and the reason I say it’s a ministry is because we do more than just coats. I share the Word with people, I let them know they are loved, I let them know that their life does matter. I let them know that no matter what we go through here on Earth, that God still has His hand on us.
So many people are wounded, discouraged, giving up, (have) no hope — I let them know, just hold on — hope and belief will change your life. I have never been to war, but I feel like I’m on the front row in a war zone out here with the public when (I) go into some of these rural areas (and) some of these underperforming schools. I am on the front lines. I see it all. I see where an entire school or entire daycare needs coats, caps and gloves. To say what we do, we are a ministry that is just trying to make a difference in keeping (those in need) warm.
ACO: What does a typical day for Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz look like?
LK: A typical day for Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz, starting mid-November, the phones start ringing. If we have a really cold spell or a really cold day, the phones start ringing around 6 or 7 o’clock (in the morning). We work all year long collecting coats, filling the warehouse up. They are calling, ‘Can you donate us coats — we have this kid or that kid.’ So many kids in the rural areas have to walk at least to me what seems like a mile, but (those calling) say it’s only three quarters of a mile. These kids that are four, five, six blocks away have to walk to school. I have witnessed some of them and they’re cold and it’s raining, and they don’t have caps and hats.
I have 10 faithful volunteers, one full-time employee, and two part-time employees. I love my volunteers. I try to run Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz as effective as I can. We have been doing what we are doing since 2015. This year has been our largest and (most) challenging year. We’re (over) 9,000 (coats given) for just this year (2021) alone. I am so grateful … that might seem like it’s a lot (of coats but) when it comes to kids, it isn’t really a lot.
ACO: How can others help with Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz?
LK: We provide only new coats. Not that I feel that used coats are not acceptable. I said, “God, You are the one who is providing anyway. So I am asking You to provide so I can give my babies, that’s what I call them — the seniors and the kids — I want to give my babies something they can be proud of. I want to make my babies feel good. I want to make my babies feel like they can have somebody that cares.”
People can help me number one (by) their prayers. Number two, they can help me by helping these kids and seniors. You can donate your coat, you can purchase (one), you can donate money, you can be a sponsor, you can be a partner. If every county would help me support just their county, I could put a coat on every kid in that county that is in need. I can’t do it by myself. But (your) county can be the county that does not have a problem when it comes to kids being warm. The counties themselves can help Mississippi Coats 4 Kids in so many ways.
For more information about Mississippi Coats 4 Kidz, visit mymississippicoats4kidz.org or call Linda Keys at 314.749.6011.
Anna Claire O’Cain is a former English teacher and current grad student in the clinical mental health counseling program at Liberty University. She is married to her best friend, J.T., a teacher and youth pastor. Most of all, she is a believer who is passionate about serving God through missions and worship. Through MCL, she now uses her love for writing to serve the Lord in a new way.