ALBANY COUNTY When Katie Drobne visited New York City for the first time in October, she was shocked to see the number of homeless people in the streets.
She thought perhaps what she saw was a fluke. She couldn’t believe so many people could be living on the street and without proper winter gear to keep warm. But when she returned a month later, things hadn’t changed.
And when the Selkirk resident returned to her job working at her grandmother’s restaurant in the City of Albany, she realized how many homeless people there were right in the Capital District.
“It crushed me,” she said. “Especially when I came home and saw the same thing happening here.”
Drobne, 20, planned to do something about an issue she deemed an injustice. She began a Facebook drive to collect coats and asked her friends to contribute, but with winter coming, her project wasn’t garnering as much attention as she had hoped.
One day, when working her shift at PG’S Café inside Albany County headquarters, she realized the help she needed might be closer at hand than she ever realized. She decided to ask some of the county employees who ate lunch there for help.
“Charles Burkes from the Veterans Service Bureau comes in a lot, so I talked with him about it and he liked the idea,” said Drobne.
Burkes soon helped Drobne to make the right connections and the county officially became a partner in the program that would come to be known as Katie’s Koats. In about a month’s time, Drobne and her grandmother, Patricia Sadowski, worked with the county to place boxes throughout the county as collections places.
“We’ve been working hard in Albany County to keep people in their homes. Unfortunately, there are still those who call the streets their home. Some of them are veterans. These fine men and women who served our country find themselves without a warm coat,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy in a statement. “I won’t let that happen and neither will our wonderful partners who are embarking on a monthlong initiative called Katie’s Koats to collect new and gently used coats for our homeless and veterans.”