‘Very thankful’: Over 20 years, Steve’s Coats helped thousands of families in the Carolinas

CHARLOTTE — You can’t talk about Channel 9 Chief Meteorologist Steve Udelson without mentioning his annual Coats for Kids drive.

Steve is retiring this week after 27 years on air in Charlotte. For 20 of those years, he’s led “Steve’s Coats for Kids,” which has helped more than a quarter-million children in the Carolinas.

While the drive is for coats, Steve will tell you it’s really about the people.

That includes 9-year-old George and his 15-year-old brother, Tyler. They’re getting brand new coats thanks to the Steve’s Coats for Kids collection.

“Does that fit?”

“Yeah,” George said.

“Oh yeah, it’s very warm, very nice too, looks very nice,” said Tyler, a 10th grader in Charlotte.

Their father, also named George, is a retired Army sergeant who served in Iran and Iraq, and he says these coat donations will help him cover other expenses. He, like so many others, is thankful for Steve’s efforts.

And it all started 20 years ago. Steve put out the call for viewers to donate new or lightly used coats to help keep kids warm.

He got help from a wide cast -- superheroes, a princess, the Charlotte police and fire departments, the kids themselves, and of course, Channel 9 viewers who often gave when they had little.

With the community joining together, the Steve’s Coats for Kids drive has brought in more than 300,000 warm coats for children in the Carolinas.

“Steve puts his heart and soul into this, and people can tell his campaign makes a difference,” said Carol Hardison with Crisis Assistance Ministry, which helps distribute the coats to families in need.

Hardison said that Steve’s collections, based on an average coat price of $60, are valued at $18 million.

“As I’ve seen Steve get more and more personally connected, it makes me realize there is a reason this coat drive has grown over ten times over the years,” Hardison said.

It’s a personal connection that families like the Hesters won’t forget.

“Happy retirement, Steve, we’re going to miss you,” the retired Army sergeant said in a message for Steve. “Twenty years, I know you will affect change somewhere else just like you did here, and we are very thankful.”

(WATCH: Record Coat Collection for the 20th Anniversary of Steve’s Coats for Kids)

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