BYRON - Domestic violence plagues many families across the Stateline. Many of them leaving their abusers with only the clothes on their back.
One Byron teen, who knows first hand about domestic violence, wanted to do something to bring some comfort to those victims. She and her father started a charity event four years ago -- to remind survivors that they're not alone.
For most, wrapping paper doesn't come out until the holidays. But for Victoria Kuzlik, it means the kick off to her annual 'Coats For Hope' drive and fundraiser.
"I wanted to give back to the people who helped me," said Kuzlik. "I started this little charity called 'Coats For Hope' and it started with three boxes and the middle school and just grew!"
Monica Allen is the adult service coordinator at the YWCA of Sauk Valley. The Sterling shelter receives the coats every year. Allen says because domestic violence is so prominent in our communities, she looks forward to the drive.
"It could be a friend, it could be a relative, it could be a niece or nephew. It's close, even if it hasn't affected you directly," said Allen. "And as long as we keep getting the calls every year, we're going to be out here, we're going to help."
The boxes will be placed in stores, banks and schools throughout the Stateline.
"We appreciate everybody that brings their coats, their mittens, their hats," explained Allen. "We will find a child, an adult, an elderly person or disabled. We'll find someone who needs them."
Organizers say many times, some of those domestic violence survivors come in with very little. Kuzlik says she wants them to know someone wants to help them.
"I've gotten letters and posters from kids and adults who I've helped," said Kuzlik. "It lifts my spirit so much to see how much they love it and appreciate it."
Kuzlik hopes one day, 'Coats For Hope' will expand into other states. If you wish to donate, you can head to their website at coatsforhope.org.
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