NEW YORK — Guido Ortenzio has spent more than a decade working at the ADAPT Community Network. During that time, he was inspired to start a program to protect ADAPT's pre-school students from the harsh winter cold.
Fast forward 13 years later, and he's still helping young children supported by the ADAPT Community Network stay warm in the winter.
"One morning, I was coming to work, and I see the school buses pulling up with the preschoolers and some of the kids don't have coats on, they're just wearing little hoodies,” Ortenzio explained. "It's in the twenties, and it kept bothering me and bothering me all day."
That experience motivated Ortenzio to act and launch ADAPT's annual winter coat drive. He started by reaching out to family, friends and business associates. They raised enough money the first year to buy around 125 coats.
"It just kept growing, one year we did 1,500 coats, which was like, really outrageous and really made me happy," Ortenzio said.
Over the years, he's helped raise enough money to buy more than 5,000 winter coats and accessories for the preschoolers supported by ADAPT.
“The house gets full of coats,” Ortenzio said with a laugh. “I mean, you can imagine 200 or 300 hundred coats sitting in my living room every year. It gets crazy, but it's fun."
It’s also been an emotional journey for Ortenzio.
“There's been times I've broke down and cried seeing the kids’ reactions and getting the letters from the families,” he explained.
Guido said while the coat drive is a highlight of the holiday season, he's inspired by the work being done by his colleagues at ADAPT all year round.
"The things that we do every day for people is just amazing. We have so many different programs in all the boroughs and the outreach that we do for families, and people don't realize the need that's out there," he said.
ADAPT is working to provide a new coat for each of the 1,200 children the organization supports across New York City.
The coat drive lasts through January 15th. For more information on how you could learn more about the ADAPT winter coat drive or donate to the cause, you can visit: adaptcommunitynetwork.org/coatdrive