Coats for Christmas

Abby Fisher

KSU professor continues sixth annual clothing drive for kids

It all started with a banana.

That’s the reason Rosa Commisso is now running her own clothing and toy drive for Lincoln Elementary School in Akron.

“Years ago, I had a nursing student who took a banana into the school to teach the kids about hygiene,” Commisso said. “After her presentation, she said one of the kids asked her who was going to eat the banana.”

Lincoln Elementary School, which offers kindergarten through grade five classes, is located in one of Akron’s poorest areas, according to Commisso.

“I’d say at that school, there’s probably a 75 percent need,” she said. “There are kids there who are in a family of six that is trying to survive on $20,000 a year.”

Commisso added that many of the students have lice and don’t own winter coats.

“I can’t imagine walking to school in the dead of winter and not have a coat,” she said.

The shelves in the Italian and Spanish professor’s office, generally overflowing with books and papers, now have acquired winter coats, hats and gloves. At least a dozen bags filled with warm clothes for Lincoln Elementary students litter the little shelf space and corners.

“This is fairly minimal,” Commisso said. “I started collecting a little late this year.”

Normally, Commisso begins her annual drive a few weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday. She says Kent State students and faculty donate to the drive.

“For some people, it’s their good deed of the semester,” she said. “Some of the professors will go out and buy clothes instead of giving to a charity.”

It’s not just Commisso who gets in on the drive, either. In past years, she has had help from Maryann de Julio and Sharon Bell, both of whom are French professors.

“They have helped me go out and buy things – they help me find the sales and the deals,” she said. “Generally, I think people are more generous during this time of year. People are aware of what they have and are grateful for it.”

Despite the seasonal giving, donations for the school have steadily decreased in the past few years. Commisso blames the economy.

“A lot of people are worried about it,” she said. “They’re afraid to spend money.”

In all of the years Commisso has manned the drive, she said 2001 was by far her most successful year.

“I took two vanloads to the school,” she said. “That was really something.”

Lincoln Elementary School principal Linda Green says Commisso’s efforts have greatly helped the school.

“This is an area where kids don’t have a lot of things,” Green said. “Commisso has provided everything: coats, mittens, gloves – everything.”

Green also mentioned that with the warm clothes, attendance during the winter months has greatly improved.

“Kids come to school more prepared,” she said. “Attendance is up and academically, the kids do much better.”

In the past years, Green has worked exclusively with Commisso.

“She has helped our school so much,” Green said. “All the things she has done help both the kids and the parents feel so much better.”

Commisso has no plans of slowing down in future drives. She expects more donations to come into her office in the coming weeks.

“A lot of these kids don’t have a fantastic Christmas,” Commisso said. “Doing the drive lets people realize all the things they take for granted.”

Contact features reporter Abby Fisher at [email protected].



Items that need to be collected for the Lincoln Elementary School Drive:

– Winter coats

– Gloves

– Knit hats

– Long-sleeved shirts

– Socks

– Scarves

– Books that may be used as gifts

– School supplies

– Non-battery operated toys

– Educational toys

The school is especially in need of clothing that will fit older children in grades three through five. Donations may be left in the foyer of room 308 in Satterfield Hall. Items will be collected until finals week. Questions and inquiries may be sent to Rosa Commisso at (330) 672-1826 or [email protected].