SALT LAKE CITY — A long line of fathers, mothers and clusters of young children extended along a 200 South sidewalk on a Saturday morning in late November.

Around 11 a.m., people began streaming through the front doors of Catholic Community Services’ St. Vincent de Paul Center, where parents recorded the number of kids in their family on a clipboard before flowing into a room of tables filled with items they would need to stay warm through the coming winter.

Once inside the room, a small army of 30 volunteers from the Utah Knights of Columbus welcomed nearly 500 boys and girls, along with a few adults, assisting them as they tried on new coats and sought out hats and gloves that fit.

Within 45 minutes, most of the new winter coats had walked out the door with smiling, happy children and grateful parents, many of whom are refugees, homeless or otherwise needy.

The highlight is seeing they joy in the kids’ faces, said Ryan Graveley, who serves as state warden and program director for the Utah State Council of the Knights of Columbus.

“There’s always a smile and that’s what makes all the hard work worthwhile,” Graveley said.

The Knights’ Coats for Kids is just one way religious organizations across Utah are assisting the less fortunate going into the holiday season. Before Thanksgiving, MOSAIC Inter-faith Ministries distributed food and other items to people who waited in the cold for hours. A church in Cache Valley recently sent food home with low-income families.

“We try to help these people all we can,” said Scott Gray, a member of the Knights of Columbus. “It’s going to be a cold winter and I have a feeling some of them aren’t ready.”

This marks the 12th year of the Coats for Kids program in Utah, and it was the largest yet. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s fraternal benefit society, generated funds for the coats by working with local parishes and church members. With 36 councils working together across the state, the Utah Knights have given coats to needy children at several locations.

This year is extra exciting because the Knights’ supreme council, based in New Haven, Connecticut, matched Utah’s donation, doubling the amount of coats they could hand out, Graveley said. That enabled them to hand out more than 1,500 coats in Utah, according to Nick Nielson, the groups’ state secretary.

“Our base core principle is charity,” Nielson said. “It really moves you when you see the families and the kids that need the coats. ... To be able to provide them with a brand new coat is so satisfying, knowing that they can at least be warm.”

After the first year, Scott and Linda Wainscott, volunteers with the project, realized the people needed hats and gloves to go with their new coats. Linda Wainscott began visiting dollar stores and after-Christmas sales to stockpile as many hats and gloves as possible, a welcome addition to the Coats for Kids program.

Volunteer Wrigley Baxter, 9, helps organize the winter hats just down the table from his grandmother, Linda Wainscott. | Trent Toone, Deseret News

Each year the Wainscotts bring one of their grandchildren to participate. This time it was 9-year-old Wrigley Baxter’s turn.

“At Christmas time, when we know it’s easy for us to give gifts but not so easy for them to get them, it makes me feel better knowing they are getting something that makes them feel better,” Linda Wainscott said.

“We have a ball doing this,” her husband added. “So many say thank you as they leave.”

Mohamed Yussuf, right, with his little brother Huran standing in a new blue coat. | Trent Toone, Deseret News

Among the grateful was 18-year-old Somalian refugee Mohamed Yussuf. He held a baby brother is in his arms while another brother, 12-year-old Harun, stood nearby sporting a new blue and gray coat, hat and gloves. Yussuf attends classes at Utah Valley University and works to help his mother care for his eight siblings. His father is no longer in the picture, he said.

Supporting so many young siblings at his age has been challenging, so collecting new coats for everyone makes a difference, Yussuf said.

“Being in a household where the income isn’t where we want it to be, taking advantage of something like this means a lot to us,” he said. “We’re prepared for the cold season.”

Another thankful soul was Katherine Quincey, a Taylorsville mother swarmed by her 10 children ages 12 and younger, including several little girls now wearing matching pink hats.

“This is really going to help out a lot,” Quincey said.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Mosiac Inter-faith Ministries, in partnership with a host of local charities, passed out turkeys, potatoes, a variety of canned goods, fruit, hygiene kits and other items to an estimated 3,600 people (about 450 families consisting of seven to nine members) who had been waiting all morning in frigid temperatures, said Leslie Whited, Mosaic’s CEO.

“People waited four or five hours in the cold to be able to get food. Many of them were tired and stressed, but they still waited that long to get their two boxes of food,” Whited said. “I think it says a lot that people are waiting in those bitter temperatures to get food. They need the food, it’s survival. It’s an indication of how difficult it is for some people.”

Mosiac also provided employment leads and other job information as people waited.

At this time of year, it’s essential to offer assistance to the needy, Whited said.

“When you can offer things with dignity and grace, it makes that moment easier for somebody else,” she said. “We plan to do an awful lot over the next month to try to make this winter and the holidays easier for people.”

In Cache Valley, Rev. Derek Forbes, pastor at First Presbyterian Church, serves as this year’s chairman of the Cache Community Connections Civic and Interfaith Council. A few weeks ago, volunteers prepared 260 meals in Ziploc bags for low-income students to take home on a Friday. They also prepared meals for senior citizens that might need something extra on a snowy day when it would be difficult to get to the store.

“You serve God by serving others, by serving God’s people,” Rev. Forbes said. “Here we are in a season of Thanksgiving. It’s a response of thanks for what we’ve been given and a way for us to share whatever blessings we have and to make sure we care for everyone in our community, particularly those who are vulnerable in certain areas, perhaps food-wise or other ways.”

How can people help?

One way is to contribute to local and global charities through Giving Machines, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through its Light the World initiative. In using the machines to purchase items like glasses, livestock, medicine or food, you instantly assist local charity partners in their respective missions, including Eye Care 4 Kids, Neighborhood House, Utah Food Bank and Utah Refugee Connection.

Mosiac is planning service projects during the month of December and volunteers are welcome. Visit their website ISSU.org for more information.

People can also find an abundance of service opportunities with Catholic Community Services (ccsutah.org).