Last updated: March 17. 2013 3:25AM - 310 Views

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WILKES-BARRE – Four-year-old Dante Gipson broke in his new coat quickly.

He struck a pose, pulled the collar over his head, leaped like a frog and shot make-believe webs like Spider-Man. It was a perfect fit.

It's good, Dante said, and then went back to being Spider-Man.

Dante was one of hundreds of pre-school students at Luzerne County Head Start who received a jacket on Friday that was collected through a coat drive organized by Eye Care Specialists, a Kingston-based chain of optometry clinics.

The drive collected more than 300 coats at drop boxes at clinics and partner locations, including the Coal Street Ice Rink in Wilkes-Barre. All of the garments will benefit children and families that need them most.

It was the second delivery Eye Care Specialists has made this winter.

To qualify to attend Head Start – which provides up to two years of preschooling for children ages 3 to 5, as well as family support services – parents must meet income guidelines roughly equivalent to poverty level.

It's so rewarding to see children come in with a sweatshirt when it's so cold outside and go home with a coat they picked out themselves, said Cheryl Summa, director of marketing for Eye Care Specialists.

The drive also collected coats for adults, as well as hats, scarves, gloves and other cold-weather clothing. Parents will be able to take coats at a family activity day scheduled for today, and any leftover clothing will be donated to the clothing closets at St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre, Volunteers of America and other charitable agencies. So families that we might not know or that we haven't touched might be touched by this as well, said Lynn Biga, director of Luzerne County Head Start.

Most of the coats donated were gently used, and some still had the sales tags attached. They're perfectly good coats, Biga said. Children grow so fast, the next year they need a new coat. It's really the community being very kind to one another; instead of keeping it in a closet somewhere, you're keeping someone warm.

Parent Frank Domoracki, of Pittston, said his three children received coats at a drive earlier this winter in Pittston.

As a parent, it is a help, Domoracki said. It takes somewhat of a burden off you, and it gives them an opportunity to pick something for themselves, and express themselves.

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