NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Educators Association collected more than $3,900 in donations for their annual winter coat drive. With the donations, the school nursing staffs, who coordinate the drive, were able to purchase more than $5,000 worth of clothing and toiletries for students in need with discounts from local businesses.

"In our New Bedford community, we have over 500 children who are homeless," NBEA president Lou St. John told WBSM News. "So there is a major need."

Funds were used to purchase not only coats, but socks, underwear, toiletries and other items for students in need. Packages of items were also organized by school nurses for their students.

"With the additional funds, we were able to buy additional winter coats, as well as hats and mittens and the other things that kids need," St. John said.

Interim Supervisor of School Nurses Wanda Nunes said that the donations are for students of all grade levels and across all schools in New Bedford. Several members of the nursing staff from across the district participated in shopping for warm winter clothing and items in need for students.

“We are thankful for the work of our school nurses in organizing this drive to serve the children in New Bedford who are most in need,” said Superintendent Pia Durkin. “Our school staff are the people who best know the challenges and needs of their students, and this is an opportunity to best serve those students.”

Peter Muise, President & CEO of First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union, which was a major sponsor of the drive and included donation boxes in their New Bedford branches, said the credit union is proud to be a part of the coat drive. According to St. John, First Citizens donated $1,000 to the drive.

“We are very involved in the community, and do a lot of work with the homeless population. This is really an extension of that work,” said Muise. “What you sometimes lose sight of is the children in these families in need, and this is one of the signature events the NBEA does for the community.”

NBEA also received donations from the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and School Committee member Bruce J. Oliveira.

"It's very gratifying to know that there are children that didn't have a winter coat, that now will have a winter coat," St. John said.

The items collected will be distributed by the nursing staffs beginning today.