BUNDLE UP: Firefighters donate 150 coats to kids in need

Photos by Amy DeMien Dr. Crisp Elementary Homeschool and Outreach Coordinator Grace Tavares with two of the kids who received brand new coats from the Nashua Firefighters on Friday.

NASHUA – Many children in Nashua don’t have the adequate winter wear to deal with the fierce New England winters, with some forced to use hand-me-down clothing outgrown by the previous owners.

Wanting to ensure every child is prepared as temperatures drop to freezing, members of the Nashua Firefighters Association delivered more than 150 new coats to children in need Friday morning.

The firefighters first pulled their truck into the Arlington Street Community Center. There, they dropped off three boxes of coats for distribution to those who would otherwise go without.

They then visited Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School, where the school guidance counselor had introduced them to students in need of a winter coat this season. They fitted each individual child with a coat in their preferred size and color, distributing more than 80 coats.

“We have been flying through coats because so many of our kids need them. Many kids come from a different country and all they have are T-shirts, so it’s such a blessing to have an abundance of coats,” Dr. Crisp Elementary Homeschool and Outreach Coordinator Grace Taveres said.

With eyes lit up and smiles on their faces, the children donned coats complete with fleece-lining, water-resistant fabric, deep pockets and a detachable hood.

“I really like my new coat. It’s so cool,” said coat recipient and Dr. Crisp Elementary School student Alexis Walshaw. “I’m so happy that the school can get things that a lot of kids like me need.”

Teacher Eva Skardal commented, “I have so many refugee kids that I teach who come to the country with clothes not suited for this weather. Coats are such a big need for our kids and this is a massive help. We really appreciate it.”

Though the Nashua Firefighters Association has been handing out coats for five years, members’ efforts are a part of a nationwide initiative called Operation Warm. Founded in 1998, Operation Warm has gifted nearly 3 million new coats to children in need, according to the website.

Since 2012, firefighters across North America have partnered with Operation Warm to provide new winter coats to children in need in the communities they protect. Hundreds of firefighters have joined the mission to positively impact the lives of children. They believe this helps increase school attendance, self-esteem, and overall health and well-being.

“It’s so rewarding to give back to the community and provide for the needs of those less fortunate,” Nashua firefighter Mark Haynes.

In the five years Nashua firefighters have been a part of the initiative, they’ve delivered hundreds of coats to kids from most of the Nashua Elementary Schools and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua. In October, they donated 70 coats to the Arlington Street Community Center in addition to the ones they delivered Friday.

“Our local firefighters are excited to be involved this and every year. Around this time, temperatures drop very quickly and there are kids who need coats to stay warm,” association President John McAllister said. “I think it’s especially important that each kid receives their own personal coat that hasn’t been passed down by anybody. It’s great to see the smiles on their faces when they receive one that’s truly their own.”

The association collects donations to purchase coats throughout the year via fundraising events such as the Club National fundraiser coming up in January. Those interested in donating funds for coats can visit www.operationwarm.org and designate their donation to the Nashua Firefighters Association.

“Our goal is to outfit at least 200 kids with coats a year,” McAllister added. “Every little bit helps.”