DeKALB – The DeKalb Fire Department opened its doors Saturday morning to families from DeKalb School District 428 in need of winter supplies for their children. The event was held in conjunction with the national nonprofit organization Operation Warm.
Operation Warm’s mission is to provide ‘warmth, confidence, and hope to children in need through the gift of brand new winter coats.’ The organization works with communities all over the U.S., and has distributed more than 3 million winter coats since its beginnings in 1998.
DeKalb firefightere union President Noah Millard said that the DeKalb firehouse has been an Operation Warm partner for five years. Working with the DeKalb Classroom Teachers’ Association, Thrivent Financial, the Knights of Columbus and Jason Fowler of Compass Mortgage, the firehouse has distributed about 750 coats to District 428 children as of 2019.
“Our goal is to each year grow and make it better,” Millard said. “In the beginning, we gave away coats., but now we’re giving away coats, we’re giving away hats and gloves, we’re giving away boots. It’s all-encompassing. We love being a part of giving back to our community.”
The event doesn’t just involve distributing winter supplies. Millard said that the firehouse uses this opportunity to educate children and families about fire safety in the winter months.
“Our favorite part is seeing the looks on their faces when we show them the fire engines. Getting to interact with them on a personal level when it’s not a call or an emergency situation. We like to do that so that they know that we’re just like them, and we’re here to help.”
About 30 teachers, fire fighters and donors came together to distribute supplies. Along with coats, hats, gloves and boots, children were also given age-appropriate books to bring home. The firehouse provided doughnuts and beverages for families to enjoy at tables set up in the warmth of the firehouse garage.
One beneficiary of Operation Warm was 10-year-old Alisha Parker. Alisha arrived at the firehouse with both of her parents.
“One thing that I like about this is that you get to take pictures, you get to get new stuff and you can tell your friends about it,” Alisha said. “My favorite part is getting my new coat and taking pictures with the firemen.”