FORSYTH - When students at Franklin School asked parent liaison Bobby Jelks where he was taking their schoolmates Tuesday, he said, "To the moon."
It's what he likes to say when someone asks where he's going because he enjoys kidding, but this time, it was a way to avoid telling the students that he was taking children to Kohl's to buy needed winter coats.
"It's Christmas," Jelks said. "If I was in that situation, I'd be glad for the coat, but (I want to) let them pick. The smiles is what I like."
All of the children said "thank you," he said, and giving them a merrier Christmas is why he wanted to be involved.
Jelks said he tells the students the coats are a gift from "Mr. B," so they won't be uncomfortable about receiving them.
"They've seen other kids get shoes and stuff, and they always ask, 'Where did Mr. B take you?' and all the kids say the same thing: 'To the moon,' " Jelks said. "No one knows. I don't like people knowing their situation. We put it in the bag, and they wear it home after school."
Project Success bought 170 coats for students in Decatur's elementary and middle schools. The money to pay for it came from Caterpillar Inc. employees, who raised $12,100 through their recycling program and employee donations.
"The parent liaisons are so excited," said Linda Rowden of Project Success. "We were not real sure we could do (the coat project) this year, so when Caterpillar called, Jane (Shade, Project Success executive director) ran right over there to get the check."
The parent liaisons worked with teachers and building principals to determine which children needed coats, and some of the parent liaisons such as Jelks took the children along to buy them so they could choose their own coat. Others wrote down kids' sizes and color preferences rather than take the kids along.
One child on Jelks' list was absent Tuesday when the majority of the coats were bought, so Jelks called her mother and asked what size and color the child wanted and went back Wednesday to get that one. He said he planned to sneak it into the building in its store bag and let the child wear it home.
"I told her mother she'd have it by (winter) break," he said. "I just want them to be happy, because not everybody can just go and get a coat."