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How a seemingly unlikely partnership is helping to keep Avondale kids warm

'We need to come together a little bit more'
Matthew White poses for a photo with some of the coats his church collected.
Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 18:10:20-05

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — When Karen Jackson announced that her Cincinnati NAACP committee would be collecting winter coats for students at South Avondale School, Matthew White didn’t hesitate.

“Mr. White was one of our first members to step up and say, ‘We definitely want to help with this,’” Jackson recalled. “And I said, ‘We?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’”

A member of the church for more than 40 years, White also became a member of the Cincinnati NAACP in 2018. He was following the lead of Jesus Christ and his church leaders, he said, and was touched by the need Jackson described at the school.

“They didn’t have jackets. They didn’t have gloves,” White said. “I’m going, OK, that’s not right.”

Coats collected by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the WIN Committee coat drive.
Coats collected by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the WIN Committee coat drive.

With the help of his church in Liberty Township, White began collecting jackets for the WIN, or Women in the NAACP, committee three years ago so the group could give them to an entire elementary class.

This year’s effort got even more ambitious when the committee set a goal of collecting enough new jackets for every student at the school – more than 320 coats in all.

Again, White stepped up to help, spreading the word throughout several congregations in Greater Cincinnati. And the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came through with its largest donation to date – a total of 95 new jackets and a check for $800 to help the committee’s efforts.

“This is great,” Jackson, who chairs the WIN Committee, said during a presentation where White and church leaders gave her the coats and the check. “A little overwhelming, but great.”

White could hardly stop smiling during the whole thing.

‘We need to come together’

“The church has so much love,” he said. “When you see someone that is in need, when you see a community that is in need, we need to reach out. As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to reach out, because that’s what he would do.”

White said he understands many people probably don’t associate his church, informally known as the Mormon Church, with the NAACP, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

Karen Jackson is smiling in this photo. She has short dark hair and is wearing a black top and black and white sweater jacket.
Karen Jackson

But he said he believes in the quote that “we’re more about unity than separation.”

“Sometimes we allow things to separate us,” he said. “I think we need to come together a little bit more.”

Jackson agreed, adding that White embodies her idea of kindness: “doing the right thing without even being asked.”

“I would tell people that when it comes to humanity, especially in our community, that we need to put all differences aside,” she said. “Not worry about religion or politics. We all want the same thing. We want to thrive. We want to be happy, and we want to be healthy. And that’s important.”

The WIN Committee values its partnership with White and the church, she said, and hopes it continues for many years to come.

“The only way to remain relevant is to serve,” she said. “And they are helping us. We’re helping the community. And hopefully these children will pay it forward when they’re adults.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Liberty Township.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Liberty Township.

The WIN Committee’s coat drive for South Avondale School continues through Dec. 10, 2021. New coats can be dropped off or delivered to the Cincinnati NAACP offices at 3494 Reading Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229. Or monetary donations can be made online by designating the donation for the WIN Committee.”

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