SNEEDVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — More than 1,000 new coats were distributed on Wednesday to students in Hancock County thanks to an initiative from Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee.

Governor Bill Lee and Maria Lee helped hand out the coats to students along with Tennessee Serves volunteers. Tennessee Serves, which is the first lady’s initiative, partnered with the nonprofit Operation Warm in order to provide the new coats to every elementary student in Hancock County, plus a portion of middle and high school students in two of the state’s federally designated counties.

“As we prepare for the winter season, we’re mindful of those in need of physical resources to stay warm and comfortable in the changing weather, especially our younger Tennesseans,” First Lady Maria Lee said. “We are grateful to Operation Warm for providing durable coats to students in rural communities which will help them keep warm as colder weather approaches.”

Maria Lee also said that the focus with Tennessee Serves is mainly on distressed counties.

Governor Lee also said the focus of distressed counties has been on rural counties in general, and his administration has also focused on rural counties.

“We understand that focusing on rural Tennessee is good for all of Tennessee,” he said. “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to every single Tennessean, even those that live in an urban center. Distressed counties are designated by joblessness and poverty and we’re really grateful for the fact that the work of the people of Tennessee has created an environment for economic activity that really spreads and helps all Tennesseans. You’ve gone from 15 distressed counties to eight in four years, we have a ways to go, but we are very encouraged.”

The students in Hancock County won’t be the only ones receiving more warmth ahead of winter. More than 3,000 new coats will be provided to every elementary student in Cocke County later this month.

Along with students at Hancock County Elementary School, Hancock County Middle/High School and Hancock County Early Learning Center, students at the following Cocke County public schools will receive new coats from Tennessee Serves:

  • Bridgeport Elementary School
  • Cosby Elementary School
  • Centerview Elementary School
  • Del Rio Elementary School
  • Edgemont Elementary School
  • Grassy Fork Elementary School
  • Northwest Elementary School
  • Parrottsville Elementary School
  • Smoky Mountain Elementary School