Anthony Harvey Jr. and Ja’Darius Woods will be giving away free winter accessories to anyone who needs them, no questions asked, at the second annual Coats 4 Kids drive this Sunday, Dec. 19.
Harvey and Woods are accepting all new and gently used coats and other winter accessories until the day of the event. They hope to top last year, when they donated more than 200 coats to Lawrence families in need.
“Nobody pays for anything. We’ve had families come with eight or nine kids, and they’ve all walked out with multiple coats, jackets, sweatshirts, whatever it may be,” Harvey said.
Harvey and Woods also take cash donations, with the proceeds going to a new cause for each fundraiser. Last year, they donated $1,500 to the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence — the same organization they grew up in.
This year, they are supporting Ubuntu Performance so the kids in the community can have better workout equipment. Harvey said Ubuntu is a local gym that he and Woods went to, run by Free State High School science teacher Kelly Barah. Barah has had a big impact in their lives “in learning the true aspects of family and how to treat people in the community,” Harvey said.
Harvey and Woods decided two years ago that it was time to give back to the community that raised them. They began talking about how they could help their community, and decided to start a fundraiser called Kicks 4 Kids, where people donated shoes, cleats, and other footwear for kids in the community.
“JD and I grew up in lower middle-class families, and we didn’t always have everything that we desired, but we had everything we needed. So, we thought it’d be cool if people (could) get more than what they need. Kids from mostly like East Lawrence because that’s where we’re from,” Harvey said. “We started with that, and then in the wintertime, we wanted to do something too, so we decided to do Coats 4 Kids.”
Once they made the decision to give back to Lawrence, the community was ready to help. Local businesses donate each year, he said, and individuals in the community consistently show their support.
“We gained support from KU Athletics — the men’s basketball team and football team — and Free State High School,” Harvey said. “All those athletic teams shipped in, and it started to kind of be contagious. People wanted to help out. They were hitting us up all year, either about the shoe drive or the coat drive.”
This show of support was especially encouraging to Harvey, who knows how difficult it can be to need help — and how it can be even more difficult to ask for it.
“I’ve been in that position where my family has kind of been struggling, and it’s hard to ask for help,” Harvey said. “When we were growing up, we didn’t have things like this. … (The fact that people in need) can come somewhere where it’s a safe environment that they can benefit from, that just makes me feel good.”
Last year, when the coat drive had concluded, Harvey looked at the leftover coats and remembered how hard it is to seek out help. Then, he hit the streets.
“Some people might be sad to come and be seen asking for help, or maybe they’re just embarrassed that they do need help,” Harvey said. “So I’ll try to reach out, go to the streets and see who needs help, and always try to bless kids. If I have to pull up to their house or if they need to get it behind closed doors, that’s perfectly fine, just as long as kids realize that they can benefit from this.”
Harvey said he also tries to give back while he’s on the clock as a Lawrence police officer.
“I’m an African American male. As a police officer, we don’t have very many, and I’m also a kid of the community. In Lawrence, when I grew up, I was scared of cops. But now I see the other side,” he said. “Every day I come into work, I try to at least make somebody smile; impact somebody’s life by even just checking up on him. So that ties into the community thing of giving back. I have a voice with law enforcement. I have a voice with kind of the community. I’m a part of something special. I love being a cop and I love being a part of Lawrence.”
Harvey and Woods plan to continue with these fundraisers and clothing drives, though they hope that, one day, another kid from Lawrence will have the passion to “take the baton.”
“Lawrence has done nothing but be great to us, and I think I’d be doing a disservice if we stopped doing this. I look forward to this every year because it just shows that people do genuinely care about each other, and they always want to help out. No matter what social class or financial class, everybody shows up to help out. It’s just great. It’s nice, the sense of love during the tough times we’ve been going through.”
Harvey emphasized that everyone is welcome at the event.
“We just do this to promote peace, love, and positivity, (and to show) that it doesn’t matter your religion, your skin color, how you identify … it doesn’t matter. We’re all people. We all are in the Lawrence community.”
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Emma Bascom (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from December 2021 through May 2022. Read more of her work for the Times here.
Betty Norwood’s smile radiated Friday at the school where she taught for 24 years. She watched as staff, middle schoolers and parents assembled for a schoolwide celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — an annual event Norwood is credited with starting more than three decades ago.