President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) 795 Beckley and Lieutenant in the Beckley Fire Department Rick Fisher shares the work his local union is doing with Operation Warm- a national nonprofit that manufactures brand-new, high-quality coats for children in need.
According to Lieutenant Fisher, IAFF 795 has partnered with Operation Warm for several years and has watched as their outreach has grown.
Each year, IAFF 795 works to give 500 coats, which costs roughly $10,000, to pre-kindergarten students in Raleigh County’s three Head Start school locations: Beckley Central, Sophia and Fairdale.
“Our first year, we started with Beckley Central and it has just grown from there,” Lieutenant Fisher told Lootpress.
In the past few years, IAFF 795 has been able to surpass their 500 goal, giving any additional coats to the Raleigh County Board of Education.
In just two years, they have given over 250 coats to the BOE to give to additional students in need.
Last year, enough funds were raised to purchase new coats for first-grade students as well.
Funds for this year’s coats came from a $4000 grant from the Beckley Area Foundation, as well as from contributions from several churches, organizations and businesses.
All donations given to the Operation Warm program stay in the program, according to Lieutenant Fisher. Any extra funds are saved and used to purchase coats the next year.
IAFF 795 is currently awaiting this year’s funds to see how many coats can be purchased but is hoping to have the coats delivered to students before Christmas Break.
Lieutenant Fisher explained how this year’s delivery will differ from years past.
“Normally, we go in and size the coats, purchase the coats and then go back with the fire trucks in our gear to talk to the students and give them the coats. With COVID, we are relying on the teachers to get the sizes, and we are just going to package the coats up for each school and drop them off so there are no exposures.”
We want to try to do the most good we can with what we have,” he continued. “This program is great. This year is a little different and we aren’t as hands-on, but just knowing all those kids will have a brand new coat when some of them have never had a new coat, you can’t put that into words.”
In the 22 years that Operation Warm has been partnering with fire departments across the country, 1,200 communities have been served, over 3.5 million coats have been purchased and 1,300 national partnerships have been established.
Operation Warm makes their coats to the strictest industry standards, ensuring that each child can stay warm and protected throughout the year.
The coats feature a fleece lining, a detachable hood, a water repellent shell, deep pockets and machine washable material.
“Through serving millions of children in need across North America, we have seen that a brand-new coat offers a child physical and emotional warmth, confidence to socialize and succeed, and hope of a brighter future,” Operation Warm wrote on their website.
“Operation Warm is dedicated to connecting people to essential resources in their communities.”